Research

Where Are They Now?

By Eleadah R. Clack, MADecember 11, 2019

(L-R) Richard L. Backman, MD, Darin Ryujin MS, MPAS, PA-C, and Doris Dalton, MPA, of the University of Utah. Ryujin and Dalton were co-investigators on a 2018 Don Pedersen Grant project and presented their research at the 2019 PAEA Education Forum. Photo: Eleadah Clack/PAEA

Every year, PAEA grantees contribute to PA scholarly canon.

It has been a stellar year for PAEA’s research grant initiatives. Across five research grant programs, PAEA has been able to offer more than $150,000 in funding each year. In this season of giving, we are closing out the year with a round-up of what our grantees have given back to PA research since our last look back in 2017.

The Legacy of Don Pedersen

Over the past two years, after careful blinded peer-review by the volunteers on the Grants and Scholarship Review Committee and the Research Mission Advancement Commission, PAEA has distributed 12 Don Pedersen Research Grants, each up to $7,000, that aim to develop PA researchers. With up to three awards available each year, this grant opportunity is often a springboard for more in-depth scholarly work.

“It is our responsibility to ensure there is research about our profession — both in how to utilize PAs and how PAs impact patient outcomes,” said Virginia Valentin, DrPH, PA-C, a 2018 Don Pedersen grantee and a 2017 AAPA-PAEA Research Fellow. Since 2011, the Don Pedersen grant has awarded $144,903 in funding to PA researchers — most of whom are just beginning their journey into faculty scholarship.

The projects selected in 2018 to be completed over the course of 2019 included research on the impact of scope of practice laws on PA wages (Valentin, et al.), point-of-care ultrasound training (Crabtree, et al.), and implicit associations that may affect minority admissions (Ryujin, et al.).

Darin Ryujin, MS, PA-C, collaborated with University of Utah’s director of admissions on his project and presented initial findings at the 2019 Education Forum. Shannon Crabtree, MMS, PA-C, and team have successfully implemented online-only point-of-care ultrasound curriculum training at a resource-limited university and presented preliminary data at Northwestern University’s Annual Medical Education Research Day in September — with more research to come.

Applications from this year’s grant cycle are currently under review.

Small Grants, Big Impressions

PAEA supports members who present original research posters, presentations, lectures, or panels at conferences through the Scientific Meeting Scholarship.

The sole winner in 2018, Jared Papa, MPAS, PA-C, studied mental health literacy through student-led community programs targeted at medically underserved individuals who attended community screening events. He presented his findings at the 2018 Association for Medical Education in Europe conference in Switzerland, an international opportunity to highlight “the global acceptance of the PA and PA-like professions.”

This past summer, 2019 Scientific Meeting Scholar Victor Quinones, MS, PA-C, was invited to present an individual session at the International Academy of Physician Associate Educators conference, also in Switzerland. Attendees at the conference had recently adopted the PA profession into their health care workforce. Quinones’ research focused on how simulation improves collaboration among health care professionals.

Jennifer Forbes, MHS, PA-C, another 2019 Scientific Meeting Scholarship recipient, attended the Association for Medical Education conference in Vienna with more than 3,900 attendees from 100 countries. “It was fantastic,” she said. “During my poster presentation, I had the opportunity to educate members of the global community about PAs, and they had many thoughtful questions about my research involving distance learning and the PANCE pass rate.”

The award “allowed me to see first-hand the different types of research being conducted worldwide and fueled my fervor to continue research,” said Quinones.

Only PAEA members are eligible to win the Scientific Meeting Scholarship. Applications are accepted year-round and up to four scholarships are awarded annually. If you are conducting research, plan ahead to apply for funds when you are selected to present and share your findings.

Building a Fellowship of Research

Each year, PAEA sponsors up to two research fellows through a partnership with AAPA, which sponsors an additional fellow. Since the program began in 2018, PAEA has funded a total of five fellows, helping them to broaden their research skills and create a network of leaders in medical and education research. 

In 2018, these research fellows were funded to spend .2 FTE to complete research projects of novel significance to PA education. All three fellows in the 2018 cohort are now working to earn PhDs and plan to publish four papers among them, in addition to submitting presentations to the 2020 PAEA Education Forum and AAPA conferences.

Read more about the 2018 research fellows’ preliminary outcomes from our 2019 Forum coverage

Research fellows from 2017 have continued to publish and present findings from their original research. Valentin discovered [EA2] [EC3] that state scope-of-practice laws do not impact the number of PA programs or PA graduates in a state but do impact the number of practicing PAs in a state. She presented her findings at the 2018 AAPA conferences and at the 2018 Education Forum, and is now in the process of submitting two manuscripts for publication.

Christina Hanson, PhD, MPAS, PA-C, found several significant differences between under-represented minority (URM) and non-URM ratings of potential influences in their career decison. Her research studied such influences as a friend or relative, parent, or personal caregiver on students’ decision to become a PA. Students who identified as URMs were significantly less likely to report that they decided during high school or before college.

During her fellowship year, Hanson became program director at a provisional PA program. She has since completed and defended her dissertation. “As I was developing the Northwestern College PA program, the findings from this study were very helpful as we considered our strategies for enrollment — particularly to increase diversity in the program,” she said.

A new cohort of fellows was announced at the 2019 Education Forum in October. The new cohort participated in their first webinar presentation, Theories of Inquiry, in November. We are looking forward to seeing what the new fellows have in store.

Faculty-Generated Research Soars

PAEA’s Faculty-Generated Research Grants offer faculty the chance to conduct a large-scale, multi-year project. In 2018, PAEA awarded $50,000 to a research team consisting of five researchers from four different universities. Led by Tamara Ritsema, PhD, MPH, MMSc, PA-C/R, of George Washington University, the team is studying the value of PAs who practice in emergency medicine. In the past year, the team has analyzed around 12 million emergency department visits from 2014–2017, and they are currently working on a manuscript for publication.

The winning research team from 2017, led by Perri Morgan, PhD, PA-C, has completed their data collection about new PA onboarding and has begun to present their findings, which include three consistent themes in the onboarding of new PAs. They interviewed a sample of 13 leaders in the development of onboarding programs for PAs, most of whom were PAs themselves.

“The onboarding experience varies so much setting-to-setting for what new PAs might need,” said Morgan. “This can be particularly hard for small clinics, which have maybe one new PA, [whereas] large institutions can create a class. It’s harder for small practices to give the attention that they need,” she explained. “Unfortunately, there aren’t many places we can get funding for research on PAs. FGRG is one of the few sources for these kinds of projects.”

The PAEA research team has presented their findings at four different venues, including the 2019 AAPA and PAEA conferences, and has been invited to return to AAPA in 2020. Their first paper has been accepted to JAAPA, and they have two more submissions pending. The have also successfully secured additional funding through a subcontract with the Carolina Workforce Center (funded by HRSA) to take the next step in the project — an interview study of PAs and NPs who recently completed onboarding in primary care.

Applications for the 2019 Faculty-Generated Research Grant program recently closed and full proposals have been solicited from those who submitted the highest-scoring letters of interest. The winning project will be selected in early 2020.

STAR Winners Survey Results

As educators and researchers, we place a high value on rigorous methodology and design. PAEA’s annual Program Survey is the field’s key source of information on PA programs. The Support to Advance Research (STAR) program enables PA faculty to take advantage of this consistent stream of institutional information by allowing researchers to include up to 10 questions in the Program Survey for their research purposes.

In 2018, eight questions regarding the prevalence of transgender health content and assessment were included in the Program Survey. The research team of four PA faculty, led by Joanne Rolls, MPAS, PA, found that 85 percent of member PA programs are teaching an hour or more of transgender health content. The team presented this data at the 2019 Education Forum, and — based on their findings — Rolls and more than 10 other PA faculty organized a new Sexual & Gender Minorities/LGBTQ+ Health interest group.

2019’s STAR grant recipient, Nick Hudak, MPA, MSED, PA-C, included questions in this year’s annual Program Survey to assess the prevalence and content of learner mistreatment policies, and we look forward to reviewing Hudak’s findings in 2020.

If you are looking for more ways to get involved with PA scholarly research, please visit PAEA’s research resources webpage to get started, and join the Research Channel of the PAEA Digital Learning Hub where PA faculty and researchers can interact and collaborate in real-time.

Eleadah R. Clack, MA

Eleadah is PAEA's project manager of research programs and evaluations, overseeing evaluations and grant and fellowship opportunities.