The Envelope, Please

Although the Education Forum was virtual this year, recipients of the annual PAEA Awards were celebrated in style, as usual. The only thing missing was the free lunch.

Each year, the PAEA Awards offer a chance for us to highlight and honor both individuals and institutions for their outstanding contributions to PA education. This year, more than ever, they remind us of the important and often challenging work that PA faculty and staff are doing to ensure that programs continue to graduate the best PAs possible. We congratulate this year’s winners for their accomplishments and their dedication to the PA profession. We have pulled excerpts from the awards ceremony narration below. The entire Awards Ceremony can be viewed here.


Lifetime Achievement Award

William Kohlhepp, DHSc, PA-C, Professor Emeritus, Quinnipiac University 

The Lifetime Achievement Award is PAEA’s most prestigious award. It honors an individual who has reached the pinnacle of their career. 

Bill Kohlhepp’s leadership capabilities were already evident when he was a student at Rutgers/UMDNJ Physician Assistant Program in 1977. He started the first PA Student Society in New Jersey and, soon after, partnered with others in founding the New Jersey State Society of Physician Assistants. After years of clinical practice, he began his formal career in PA education at Quinnipiac University, where he served in several capacities within the PA program and was promoted to the roles of associate dean, associate vice president and, most recently, dean of the School of Health Sciences.

Realizing the importance of leadership and advocacy within the PA community, he served in the top role at PAEA, AAPA, NCCPA, and the Connecticut Academy of Physician Assistants. Dr. Kohlhepp has been a mentor to numerous graduate students, positively influencing them to follow in his footsteps to become involved in local and national organizations within the profession.  

Administrative Support Staff Award

Susan Eckert, Student Services Specialist and Office Manager, East Carolina University Department of Physician Assistant Studies

The Administrative Support Staff Award recognizes a program staff member who has made extraordinary contributions to PA education. 

In response to the pandemic, in a short time and without any cost to the program, Susan Eckert designed a remote web proctoring system for clinical students and took charge of the clinical year supplement weekly case conferences. After the loss of staff due to resignations and budget cuts, she assumed a leadership role in PA admissions and transformed an inefficient interview process by implementing new interview schedules, timely contact with applicants, and coordination with other units within the University. When the need arose, she also filled in as an administrative clinical coordinator.

Article of the Year Award

“Impact of Physicians, Nurse Practitioners, and Physician Assistants on Utilization and Costs for Complex Patients,” authored by Perri Morgan and colleagues, published in Health Affairs – Perri Morgan, PhD, MEd, PA-C, Duke University School of Medicine   

The Article of the Year Award recognizes a single, peer­-reviewed publication related to the training and educational direction of future generations of PAs. 

An interdisciplinary team of authors from Durham Veterans Affairs and Duke University, including the Duke PA Program, collaborated to study whether provider type has an impact on the cost of care. The study showed that not only did care for patients of PAs and nurse practitioners not cost more than care for patients of physicians, it actually cost markedly less.   

Clinical Education Award

Kim DeVore, MS, PA-C, Director of Clinical Education and Assistant Professor, A.T. Still University Physician Assistant Studies Department 

The Clinical Education Award recognizes a program faculty or staff member with a minimum of three years of experience coordinating the clinical education of PA students. 

Kim DeVore has developed easy-to-follow videos to assist in the recruitment and onboarding of new preceptors. She has also been instrumental in building her program’s Hometown Scholars program, in which she mentors individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds to become PAs. In support of the university’s partnership with the National Association of Community Health Centers, she has established and supervised community campuses to serve as home bases for students during their clinical year experiences. In this work, she builds long-term relationships and partnerships in the most underserved areas in the nation.   

Excellence Through Diversity Award

Touro University California Joint MSPAS/MPH Program – Grace Landel, MEd, PA-C, Program Director, Assistant Dean, and Professor

The Excellence Through Diversity Award recognizes the outstanding commitments and achievements of a PAEA member program that has made noteworthy contributions to promoting diversity in all elements of PA education. 

From its inception, the Touro University California Joint MSPAS/MPH Program has made substantial contributions in outreach to and recruitment from diverse and underserved populations; training and educational experiences for faculty and students; research and scholarship pertaining to diversity and inclusion; and leadership and advocacy. It is the only PA program in which all students earn a Master of Public Health alongside their preparation to be PAs. The integration of these two professions trains alumni to see both the individual patient and the community in which they live.   

Leadership Development Award

Susan Fernandes, LPD, MHP, PA-C, Associate Dean for PA Education and Program Director for the Master of Science in PA Studies program, Stanford University

The Leadership Development Award recognizes an individual who demonstrates exceptional leadership and develops a new generation of educational leaders. 

Susan Fernandes has held numerous leadership positions over her 25-year career. She creatively and successfully led a working group in the creation of the Master of Science in PA Studies program at Stanford and is heavily involved in the design, implementation, and leadership of all aspects of the PA program. Along with leading the program, she teaches and mentors PA students and faculty while also serving as the inaugural associate dean of PA education. In addition to her role at Stanford, Dr. Fernandes provides clinical care to adolescent and adult survivors of congenital heart disease. 

Master Faculty Award

Lisa Barratt, MS, PA-C, Director of Didactic Education and Clinical Associate Professor, Quinnipiac University Physician Assistant Studies

The Master Faculty Award recognizes a program faculty member with a minimum of seven years of service who has made noteworthy contributions to PA education. 

A full-time PA educator at Quinnipiac University for more than 20 years, Lisa Barratt has shaped hundreds of students to become competent PAs. She serves as the Director of Didactic Education, where she has created valuable partnerships with clinicians who are experts in their fields and also spends countless hours building a curricular thread that maximizes student learning. A leader in several community-based activities, Ms. Barratt is the co-founder of Midnight Run, a community service activity brought to Quinnipiac University that provides clothing, essential supplies, and food to New Haven’s homeless population. 

New Faculty Award for Professional Excellence

Sara Lolar, MS, PA-C, Assistant Professor, Wayne State University Department of Physician Assistant Studies

The New Faculty Award for Professional Excellence recognizes a program faculty member with three or fewer years of service who has made noteworthy contributions to PA education. 

Charged with teaching clinical documentation at her program, Sara Lolar developed an intergrader evaluation process to ensure objectivity and consistency with grading. She was also instrumental in developing a case-based seminar involving small groups of students interacting with alumni, and this year spearheaded the development of an ultrasound curriculum. Recently awarded the Don Pederson Research Grant for a project examining barriers to research for PA faculty, she also has received internal funding to evaluate the impact of factors affecting PANCE performance. 

Partnership Award

Brandi Tuttle, MSLIS, Research and Education Librarian, Duke University Medical Center Library

The Partnership Award recognizes an individual or institution that has provided support to a PA program and made a noteworthy contribution to PA education

Brandi Tuttle has been a valuable liaison to the Duke PA program for the past 12 years. She is extensively involved in education design and delivery, focusing on the current and future skills that students need in order to provide evidence-based care to patients. She created a dedicated webpage on the university’s library website for the Duke PA program, which includes relevant resources, curriculum, and assignments, as well as a chat box that connects students directly with her.  

Rising Star Award

Eric Nemec, PharmD, MEHP, Director of Research and Assessment and Clinical Associate Professor, Sacred Heart University Department of Physician Assistant Studies

The Rising Star Award goes to a program faculty member with three to seven years of service who has made noteworthy contributions to PA education. 

Eric Nemec is one of the founding faculty members of Sacred Heart University’s Physician Assistant Program, where he has been instrumental in the planning, development, and execution of several courses, including the master’s capstone course. Dr. Nemec has demonstrated leadership as the founding director of research and assessment, leading his program’s Self-Assessment Committee, holding numerous other seats on college and university decision-making committees, and advocating for and educating patients within his community.  

Past President Award

Jonathan Bowser, MS, PA-C, Director, Associate Dean and Section Head, University of Colorado CHA/PA Program

Technically not an official PAEA award, the Past President Award is presented each year to the outgoing president of PAEA after their third and final year in the president rotation role for their valuable time and leadership of the Association.

Jon Bowser served on the PAEA Board of Directors for a total of six years — three years as a director at large and three years first as president elect, then president, and this last year as past president. We thank him for his dedication to PAEA and for leading the Board through the conscientious process of identifying a new CEO. His imprint on the organization will be felt for years to come.

Looking ahead, nominations for our 2021 awards will open in January. Watch your inbox for nomination information to help us continue to recognize the impressive work of our colleagues in the PA education community.