SEU PA Program Builds a Hierarchy of EDIB Learning and Development Model 

PAEA is excited to explore a relatively new PA program at Saint Elizabeth University (SEU) in Morristown, New Jersey, which was accredited in 2019 and founded on the principles of equity.

“Our graduates will promote the dignity and diversity of all patients, in the spirit of service, social justice, and leadership,” the university’s mission statement says.

Lori Tarke, MEd, DHSc, Director of Clinical Sites and Associate Professor as well as a nationally known diversity and inclusion expert, developed the Hierarchy of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (EDIB) Learning and Development model, as seen below.  

Students learn this model in the curriculum and use it in crucial conversations about identity, emotional intelligence, self-advocacy, and the dimensions of diversity, power, and privilege. They take it one step further by bringing the community into the classroom.

Students and alumni spoke to us about hearing from people who are in recovery from substance use disorder, the survivors of human trafficking, Native American survivors of environmental injustice, and practicing PAs and their experiences with race in medicine in an environment where all feel valued and can acknowledge their positioning within these difficult topics.  

This is not the only opportunity students have to interact with the world beyond SEU. First-year PA students Rama Abbireddy and Gina Watkins spoke passionately about the PA program’s mission to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in medicine (URiM) through the creation of community resource groups (CRGs). Every month, a new identity is highlighted, and leaders from that community come to campus to discuss their group’s unique needs, brainstorm solutions that will increase students from the underrepresented communities and cultivate engagement directly with the students.

Some examples include the Black and African American CRG, the Latinx and Hispanic “Creciendo Juntos” CRG, and the LGBTQ+ CRG, which is planned for September. The CRGs are comprised of representatives who hold these identities or allies who hail from major hospitals, associations, faith-based institutions, K-12 schools, universities, and even alumni from across the country.  

Abbireddy and Watkins also praised how hands-on their education has been in the program. Through her position on the student council committee, Abbireddy does outreach at schools, over the radio, at conferences, and more, educating others about the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality. Watkins detailed the evidence-based public health project students complete at the end of the didactic year, where they identify a problem in a specific community, develop a plan, put that plan into action, and then measure and report results.

Both reflected on how they chose to apply to SEU because of its strong focus on EDI. Abbireddy and Watkins said they have felt so embraced and welcomed in their whole identities that they want to spread the word and give back to their school.  

Nicole Lauricella, PA-C, who graduated from SEU in 2021, is still involved through a program she started called the PA Advocacy Group after being awarded PAEA’s 2021-2022 Student Health Policy Fellowship.

Like Abbireddy and Watkins, Lauricella enjoyed her time in the PA program so thoroughly that she became an advocate for the PA profession. In her free time, she organized students and alumni to reach out to more than 100 high schools in New Jersey and gave presentations to classes, came to career fairs, and distributed pamphlets.

Her outreach focused on underserved communities and she targeted high schools with students whose families are at a lower socioeconomic status, using what she learned at SEU to guide her. 

Saint Elizabeth University’s PA program is a stand-out example of a program that weaves EDI principles into its core. Through the policies, procedures, faculty/staff, and curriculum, SEU arms its students with the tools to become emotionally intelligent, passionate, and competent providers who carry the EDI mission forward.

To learn more about the Hierarchy of EDIB Learning and Development model, please contact Lori Tarke at