Behind the Scenes

Sara Fletcher Takes the Baton as Interim CEO

By Elizabeth AlesburyMay 1, 2019

PAEA's Sara Fletcher addressing attendees at the 2018 Education Forum. Credit: PAEA

As we prepare to bid adieu to our longtime leader and CEO Timi Agar Barwick, we’d like to introduce you to her interim successor.

As you have most likely heard, our CEO Timi Agar Barwick, MPM, will be stepping down from her role of 27 years at the end of June. Filling those rather large shoes and leading the Association — at least for now — will be PAEA’s Vice President and Chief Learning Officer Sara Fletcher, PhD. Sara is the ideal choice to serve as interim CEO, having been with PAEA for five years, leading the areas of faculty development, curriculum, and assessment.

Sara has a clear vision for the road ahead, and we wanted to share it with you, along with her thoughts about the future of PA education and the Association.

1. What are your primary goals for the Association in your term as interim CEO?
As interim CEO, my primary goal is to ensure the Association continues to find ways to increase its value to our members. I see my main role as encourager and supporter for staff so that they can continue to find innovative ways to support members.

2. What do you see as the fundamental obligation of a membership organization to its members?
It is incumbent upon a membership organization to know its members and really understand the unique challenges and opportunities that exist in their day-to-day lives. Without a solid understanding, which is built on first-hand experience and empathetic listening, a membership organization will be unable to remain relevant and provide the value its members need and want.

V.P. and Chief Learning Officer Sara Fletcher

3. What do you think are the major forces shaping health care right now and how might they affect PA curricula?
The primary force shaping health care today is — and always has been — money; however, it’s not about the dollars and cents themselves; rather it’s about what is being paid for, which looks very different given the shift from fee-for-service to value-based care. This change requires a different mindset for practitioners and those who educate them. The focus is on outcomes, not the actions themselves. It also requires curricular changes to help students navigate an environment focused on meeting certain metrics such as the Institutes of Health Quadruple Aim.

4. You have been a champion of PAEA’s work on outcomes-based accreditation. What do you see as the next steps with that work?
The next step is two-fold. First, there’s a call-to-action to our members, which is for them to be prepared to provide feedback to the ARC-PA when the 5th edition of the Standards is released. While the formal review and comment period has closed for the draft version of the Standards, your feedback matters. Second is for PAEA to continue focusing its faculty development efforts on building a shared understanding and language on outcomes-based education.

5. How do you see the Digital Learning Hub changing the way that PAEA provides resources and services to its members?
The vision upon which the Digital Learning Hub rests is all about increasing convenient access to professional development resources for members. I believe the hub will allow PAEA to offer more resources and services quicker than when we relied solely on face-to-face events and listservs. The purpose of the Digital Learning Hub is to provide professional development resources to our members anytime and anywhere. We see it as an added layer of resources and services, not a replacement for face-to-face events.

6. What do you think are the major forces shaping higher education right now, and what opportunities do they provide for PAEA?
Many of the forces that are shaping health care, including money, technology, and a consumer mentality, are also shaping higher education. Students, parents, and the federal government are demanding more bang for the bucks that they are spending on higher education. There’s a greater expectation that it be accountable for employability and increased return on investment. And, with the advances in technology, colleges and universities must go beyond the classroom and curriculum to attract students. All of these forces present several opportunities for PAEA. Now, more than ever before, we need to equip our programs with the information that can help them secure resources for everything from their admissions and pipeline efforts to the institutional support so many programs struggle to obtain. This means providing the data and insights that will help our programs at the local level. The second greatest opportunity for the Association is investing our energy in leadership development. Leadership skills are needed across the board from students to program directors.

7. During your five years at PAEA, what part of your job have you enjoyed the most? And why?
What I’ve enjoyed the most is the people — this includes our members, the PAEA staff, and the stakeholders involved in health professions education. Our members are some of the kindest, most hard-working people I’ve ever met. Our staff desperately wants to have an impact on PA education and the profession. It’s truly an honor to work with and for professionals who put the interests of others above their own and lead with heart and not ego.

8. Assuming you do ever have some free time, how do you like to spend it?
I am all about family, so for me, my free time is spent with my 2 boys: Tanner, age 13, and Chandler, age 6. They are the light of my life, and every day is a new adventure — and usually another gray hair.

 

Libby Alesbury
Elizabeth Alesbury

Elizabeth (Libby) is editorial director for the Physician Assistant Education Association. With a background in news, publications, television, and media relations, she joined PAEA in 2010.