Spotlight Archive

Certified PA Works to Reduce Maternal Mortality in Sierra Leone

Posted: April 2022

Certified PA, Saibatu Mansaray founded the Mansaray Foundation to reduce health care barriers and improve access to quality care for pregnant women in Sierra Leone, where 1 in 73 mothers die from preventable childbirth complications. That rate is six times higher than the global average and underscores the need for Saibatu’s efforts.

To begin her work, she developed partnerships with the Panlap Health Centre and Masongbo Peripheral Heath Unit. She also conducted outreach and awareness activities to reach stakeholders, including leaders of the Gbanti and Makari Chiefdoms.

To extend her efforts with these partners, Saibatu applied for the Be the CHANGE grant. With grant funding, she and her team provided more than 100 birthing buckets to expecting mothers. These buckets contained the necessary supplies to take care of newborn, such as diapers, bibs, wash cloths, newborn hygiene supplies, as well as educational materials. In addition, her team provided community education on pregnancy Dos and Don’ts, danger signs for mother and baby, a guide for proper nutrition, and sexual reproductive health for teens and pre-teens.

Saibatu shared, “My monthly talks to pregnant and lactating women about nutrition, antenatal and postnatal visits, breastfeeding, danger signs, mental health, home support and safety, and lots more are also tied to my clinical background. My clinical side has been overwhelmingly helpful, especially in our efforts to improve the quality of care and healthcare service delivery systems.”

Saibatu and her team also provided training for midwives, traditional birth attendants, and other clinic staff. The trainings addressed immunizations, family planning, prenatal and postnatal care, blood loss in the intrapartum and postpartum stages, and more.

Saibatu highlighted, “The lack of medical resources and education is a major contributor to the crisis. My PA and military background have been an asset to me as I lead the efforts on the ground to implement our strategy to reduce maternal mortality in rural Sierra Leone. The strategy and operational side of serving as a military PA have helped the team and me develop sound medical outreach plans, coordination, and engagement but, also, has enabled me to critically think and start initiatives that are innovative sustainable methods.”

The Mansaray Foundation continues its efforts in Sierra Leone with the goal to reduce the maternal morality rate to one of the lowest in Africa.

Saibatu also shares her important work through a host of conferences and other forums around the world. Check out Saibatu sharing more about her work here.

“My experience as a PA working for the common good has been rewarding. The Mansaray Foundation is making strides; and we are relentless and that, in itself, is something energizing to me on the ground to never give up on this fight because we are close to making a difference and creating a standard of excellence for maternal health care to be replicated across rural Sierra Leone. The support from the PA community has been impressive, and I am extremely grateful.”

This project was supported by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE Grant and additional funding.





PA Students Care Strong for Northeastern Ohioans

Posted: January 2022

Jereme Mellenthin, MPAS, PA-C and the Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) PA Program developed The Care Strong Project to promote social justice and provide access to health screenings, health education, fresh local foods, and equal opportunity for healthy living for underserved communities.

A collaboration between the PA Program and a local nonprofit, Food Strong, the project offered 28 preventative health screening clinics across 5 locations in East Cleveland, a food desert. 

Clinic participants could have their BMI, blood pressure, and blood sugar checked; participate in health education and smoking cessation counseling; and receive oral health and mental health screenings.  In addition, participants at the events near local farmers markets were provided with “health bucks” to use on fresh foods as an incentive for the screenings.  Nearly 300 community members were reached. 

CWRU’s first- and second-year PA students, pharmacy students from Ohio Northern University, and family medicine residents from University Hospital staffed these interprofessional clinics.  Students not only gained clinical experience performing the screenings, but also experience providing health education about lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise. 

Food Strong’s Community Outreach Associates provided follow-up resources and referred participants to local free or low-cost primary care providers, dentists, mental health services, and unemployment services.

The project’s impact was measured in several ways.  More than 60 participants connected with a primary care provider, dentist, or health insurance provider following their screenings.  Further, survey results found a 20-30% improvement of feelings of trust in the healthcare system and primary care providers, and 30% of respondents indicated they were inspired to take steps to quit smoking. 

The project was also impactful for participating PA students. 

“PA students have had profound insights from directly seeing the impacts of poverty and food deserts on people’s health.  Post-event debriefs show that students felt more confident speaking to people of different backgrounds than their own about their overall health, oral health, and mental health and the barriers they face.  This project gives students that valuable field experience and growth potential in community empowerment and the opportunity to increase their comfort in working with marginalized communities while decreasing their own implicit biases,” shared Jereme.

CWRU faculty and students shared additional reflections:   

  • “One of the most amazing parts of this project is getting to see the ‘Ah ha!’ lightbulb moment, when a student realizes they are making a difference or seeing the effect of a social determinant of health that was discussed in class. The addition of prebriefs and debriefs has made the experience more impactful.”
  • “One particular moment a student shared, was when she was counselling a client about smoking cessation, and they commented how they were working on it, but they were proud that they had stopped smoking crack cocaine. They student was dumbfounded. The experience really puts into perspective how healthcare can be far down the list of essential needs for a person.”
  • “Students have also commented on recognizing microaggressions and [how] stigmatizing neighborhoods can have an impact on their care and attitude toward others.”
  • “They realized that a lack of health care is not usually an active choice, but a summation of not knowing what is available, the best place to get the care needed, and having access to resources or where to find them.”

The Care Strong Project will remain an integral part of CWRU PA program’s Community Service and Experiential Learning Course.

This project was supported by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE Grant and additional funding.


Jereme Mellenthin, MPAS, PA-C, Visiting Assistant Professor & Community Engagement Coordinator at Case Western Reserve University PA Program



Case Western Reserve University PA Students providing health screenings during The Care Strong Project.

Promoting Equitable Care for Diverse Patients

Posted: October 2021

Carolyn A. Jahr, DMSc, PA-C, and PA Student Abigail E.M. DeLisle partnered to enhance educational experiences for PA students at The College of St. Scholastica (CSS), empowering them to foster equitable care in their careers as PAs.  Their goal:  Recruit a more diverse standardized patient (SP) pool that reflects the Minnesota communities served by CSS PA students and graduates. 

To get started, Carolyn and Abbey connected with community groups in and near Duluth, MN, including branches of the NAACP, the YWCA, divisions within the Fond du Lac Lake Superior Chippewa, the American Indian Community Housing Organization, the Center for American Indian Resources, and more.  Community partners provided helpful feedback on the project’s recruiting materials, recruiting approach, and training/retention approaches. 

Once finalized, community partners assisted in the distribution of recruitment materials.  Carolyn and Abbey amplified these efforts by distributing materials at community events, including a Juneteenth celebration, NAACP facemask distribution events, and more.  The events allowed the grantees to promote the PA profession and the significant role SPs have in PA education.

Following COVID safety protocols, SP training was ongoing and individualized, often leveraging informational and coaching phone calls between faculty and recruits to overcome barriers such as unreliable Internet access.

In August, eight new SPs,  including BIPOC participants, LGBTQ+ and non-binary/third gendered individuals, individuals with no or low-income, and individuals with varying health literacy levels, participated in the PA program’s summative didactic phase OSCE in-person with PPE.    

“The experience widened our definition of diversity, equity, and inclusion, as it unexpectedly resulted in the recruitment and utilization of other minoritized and socially disadvantaged community members,” shared Carolyn.

Participating SPs shared their reflections via a survey, describing the experience as a valuable and positive one:   

  • “Being a model patient gives me an opportunity to help student PAs to develop important skills they will need and which will benefit their patients later on.”
  • “Helping to form the next generation of healthcare providers and to provide them with experience in relating to non-binary and trans individuals was amazing.”
  • “I feel that I am helping make a difference in the future of healthcare-and that is important to me.”
  • “Seeing how each student provider brings their own nuanced approaches to treating the same patient gave me a different perspective on medical providers and their development.”
  • “It was great to be a part of and helpful to the learning process. I appreciated the positivity of the students and proctors.”

Five additional BIPOC individuals were identified as future SPs, and the project is expected to continue.  As additional data is collected, the grantees hope to share their findings and experience with PAs in Minnesota as well as the PA education community.    

This project was supported by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE Grant.



Raising Awareness for Safe Fun in the Sun

Posted: August 2021

Certified PA Alyssa Hernandez Pena provided health education about risk factors and warning signs for skin cancer, promoted prevention strategies and screening recommendations, and offered sunscreen samples to more than 5,000 community members in central Florida.

Alyssa recruited fellow PAs, PA students, pre-PA students, dermatologists, other health care professionals, and community members as volunteers to help her.  

Early in her efforts, COVID-19 restrictions forced her to pivot from her original plan to participate in large, outdoor community events.   However, Alyssa wasn’t deterred as sun exposure was at an all-time high as people sought outdoor activities. 

She modified her outreach, reaching community members on Florida trails and beaches, where people could have small socially-distanced gatherings.  She also reached a more diverse population through outreach to medical offices and local aestheticians, massage therapists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists.  In fact, educating professionals who “see” the skin about how vital their role can be in skin cancer prevention and awareness became an additional focus.

“With skin cancer being the most commonly diagnosed cancer, I believe continuing and improving upon this program could make a big difference in my local community.  I hope to encourage more PAs in the field of dermatology to become involved in their local community and assist in creating fun and effective ways to spread awareness,” shared Alyssa. 

Volunteers logged more than 450 hours distributing over 5,000 packets with sun safety education information about skin cancer, prevention strategies, statistics, and interactive quizzes.  More than 3,000 participants completed the quizzes for the chance to win prizes.  

Participants shared their appreciation for the educational materials, especially a visual guide to performing self-skin checks.  Since the project began, Alyssa has also seen an increase in new patients, specifically those under 45 years old, scheduling their first complete skin cancer screening.  The project also impacted fellow providers and medical staff, who were able to engage with more confidence when educating the public about sun safety, asking about daily sunscreen use, etc. 

Alyssa’s project also provided considerable exposure for the PA profession across Central Florida as volunteers identified themselves as PAs, PA students, or aspiring PAs when providing the sun safety education.

This project was supported by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE Grant.


Alyssa and Kimberly Drury, CeraVe Orlando Representative, who helped secure the sunscreen samples for the project. ​ 

Volunteers assembled more than 5,000 packets with sunscreen samples and educational materials.  Pre-PA students, Kaley and Camryn, distributed educational materials.

Fostering Recovery and Reducing Stigma

Posted: July 2021

During the 2020-21 academic year, Mount St. Joseph University (MSJU) PA students Vanessa Godines and Laila Al-Khasawneh led the project Closing the Gap through Art.

As part of their PA studies, Vanessa and Laila learned about the reduced life expectancy and increased incidence of chronic disease associated with severe mental disorders.  They also learned that art therapy can foster recovery through structure and achievement as well as cultivating social inclusion and acceptance. 

These findings and their passion for reducing mental health disparities led them to design this project, which used a holistic approach to promote mental health recovery through therapeutic art for participants and to foster community awareness on mental and behavioral health disparities.  

They partnered with the Recovery Center of Hamilton County (RCHC), which is a peer-run non-profit organization dedicated to serving and empowering individuals affected by mental illness; the therapeutic art projects were completed at the Center.  In their reflections, participants said the project not only stimulated creativity but also allowed them to tell their story, to heal, and to work on self-discovery. 

The Director of RCHC, Chris Pedoto, highlighted that the project helped participants to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, reduce their anxiety, and improve their self-esteem.  Fifty-one art pieces were created.

In March, the artwork was displayed at the Mount St. Joseph University San Giuseppe Gallery.  In keeping with COVID safety protocols and to expand the project’s reach, a virtual display, which included participants’ reflections, was also created.  Two virtual presentations of the art show were shared via social media and the MSJU PA Program website, which garnered more than 1,000 views.  The art show helped educate the community about mental health and the challenges those in recovery face, while reducing the stigma around mental illness.

From the program, 34 PA students participated in the project presentation and planning process.  They assisted in promotions, gathering mental health resource information, and art sales.  In addition, this project engaged undergraduate students in cognition and memory, psychology, and sociology courses, primarily to supplement lectures addressing prejudice and discrimination towards the mental health community and to equip future providers to better serve these patients.

Vanessa reflected on the project:  “By working closely and hearing the stories of individuals who were affected by a mental health diagnosis, I developed a deeper understanding of the challenges this population faces in the community due to social stigma and lack of awareness. As a Physician Assistant student, I became aware of the likelihood of these patients’ reduced life expectancies and higher prevalence of developing chronic diseases. This project provided the opportunity to spread exposure to the social issues that this community faces and the important roles that future and current professionals hold in their recovery process." 

Given the project’s success, plans are in place to continue mental health outreach as part of the Clinical Approach to Behavioral Health course in the MSJU PA Program.  Learn more about their efforts at Closing the Gap through Art.

This project was supported by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Mental Health Outreach Grant.

PA students Vanessa Godines and Laila Al-Khasawneh. 

Artists from the Recovery Center of Hamilton County who participated in Closing the Gap through Art. 

PA Students Turn Leadership into Outreach

Posted: May 2021

In November 2020, Shenandoah University PA Student Society (SUPASS), led by PA student Gabriella Maye, hosted a virtual leadership training event for PA, occupational therapy, and pharmacy students across Shenandoah’s two campus; but that was just the beginning.

Considering the impact of COVID-19 combined with academic stress, the event encouraged students to focus on mental health and provided leadership tools for students to carry into their future careers as health care providers. 

Post-event, 80% of participants stated they were committed to “paying it forward” by leading future outreach events to expand the training’s impact and to address mental health needs for students and the greater community.

Isabel Contreras, Class of 2022 SUPASS Vice President, stepped up to the challenge by educating fellow students, colleagues, and the community about sexual assault and sexual violence in April 2021, which coincided with Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Partnering with Fear 2 Freedom (F2F), a nonprofit dedicated to providing education and service-oriented programs to end sexual assault, Isabel organized an Hour 2 Empower for the Shenandoah PA students and faculty.  She collaborated with fellow PA Student Zoyah Butt, the Class of 2022 Student Diversity Representative, to bring the event to both Shenandoah campuses.

More than 50 students and faculty attend the Hour 2 Empower, which included a one-hour educational seminar and a COVID-19 adapted service project.  The educational session was tailored to PA students as future health care providers and focused on trauma-informed support and compassionate responses to trauma.

The service project involved making 100 care kits for sexual assault survivors, which included clothing, toiletries, handwritten letters, resource cards, and a stuffed bear for child and adult sexual assault survivors.  After the session, the kits went to local hospitals and women’s shelters. 

Isabel explained the significance of the kit’s stuffed bear: “The bear is a significant component of the survivor’s healing; survivors are encouraged to write a letter to their future self and place it inside the heart of the bear.  When survivors feel they are ready, they can take out the note to themselves and place it in hot water where it dissolves.  This is a significantly symbolic moment for survivors during their healing and recovery.”

The SUPASS Virtual Leadership Event was supported by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE grant.

Pictured from left to right: PA students Gabriella Maye, Isabel Contreras, and Zoyah Butt. 

November 2020 Virtual Leadership Training 

April 2021 Fear 2 Freedom Outreach Event

Decreasing Disparities & Increasing Access for Transgender Patients

Posted: January 2021

Led by then PA student Bethany Hart, a team from UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, conducted a study of PA, medical and clinical nutrition students’ attitudes, clinical knowledge and clinical skills regarding transgender patients. The study raised awareness of health disparities for transgender persons and is poised to expand access to care.

A major barrier to health among transgender patients is limited access to clinicians who are willing to provide basic primary care services. Approximately 20-30% of transgender persons have no primary care provider, and, in Texas, transgender individuals are a marginalized population at high risk of adverse health outcomes.1

Be the CHANGE grantee Bethany Hart saw the lack of access firsthand.  Hart shared:  “Working as a Medical Assistant in a Family Medicine clinic that provided hormone therapy (HRT) to transgender patients, I saw the need for primary care providers who are comfortable caring for transgender patients. The few patients whose insurance would cover HRT management by an Endocrinologist could rarely afford the specialty copays and deductibles. Thus, our transgender patients usually established care seeking HRT alone but inherently gained a primary care provider as well.”

With no known studies on this topic regarding PA students or on implementing a transgender curriculum into PA programs, the team at UT Southwestern sought to close this gap.

They surveyed 1,000 medical students, 180 PA students and 40 clinical nutrition students at UT Southwestern using validated questions regarding transgender care attitudes, knowledge, and skills. They also held three focus groups to gather qualitative data.

In addition, the team provided a two-hour transgender health lecture for PA and nutrition students that focused on barriers to health, epidemiological trends, history and physical exam skills, and medical and surgical treatment options for gender dysphoria.

A post-lecture survey found students held overall positive personal views toward transgender patients and expressed desire for the addition of a transgender curriculum. PA students who attended the lecture reported higher levels of clinical skills and knowledge in the post survey compared to the pre survey.

Hart, now a Certified PA, and her team hope to use the study results to increase transgender patients’ access to both primary care and gender-transition care through improvements in education of future providers.  Further, their data may inform the development of a PA curriculum on transgender healthcare.

To share their findings, Hart and her team were accepted to present their work at the 2020 TEACH-S Educational Symposium and the 2020 World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s (WPATH) 26th Scientific Symposium.  WPATH is one of the foremost gatherings within the field of transgender health and showcased the team’s research as well as the role and contributions of PAs to transgender health experts. Check out her abstract presentation HERE.

In addition, the study has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Physician Assistant Education.

This project was supported by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE grant.

1Korpaisarn, S., & Safer, J. D. (2018). Gaps in transgender medical education among healthcare providers: A major barrier to care for transgender persons. Reviews in Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders. doi:10.1007/s11154-018-9452

Bethany's presention at WPATH's 26th Scientific Symposium.

From Rotation to Outreach: Oral Health Education for Kids

Posted: April 2020

Led by second-year PA student Kelsie Dirksing, 34 Mount St Joseph University (MSJU) PA students raised oral health awareness by providing education as well as toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss to more than 200 Sayler Park Elementary School students in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The project was an outgrowth of Dirksing’s pediatric rotation in a medically underserved community.

“On my rotation, I noticed that the majority of my young patients did not have a toothbrush,” said Dirksing, MSJU Class of 2020. “Thus, I took the initiative to apply for the nccPA Health Foundation’s grant to develop a program that would assist me in teaching oral health while providing supplies that would make a direct impact in children’s lives.”

MSJU’s Program Director Patrick Cafferty, PA-C, faculty member Rebekah Moore, PA-C, and her preceptor Rachael Doll, CNP, supported Dirksing's outreach plans. Setting up the project required establishing a strong partnership between the MSJU PA program and the Salyer Park school as well as the development of lesson plans for the two-part educational program.

During each session, 2 to 3 PA students from MSJU’s Class of 2021 visited the Salyer Park’s classrooms to educate about proper brushing and flossing, how dental caries can affect overall health, and the importance of a proper diet for strong teeth.

The curriculum sought to educate and engage the students, ages pre-K to 5th grade, in ways that could be of greatest benefit to them. The sessions leveraged large models, which allowed students to practice proper brushing and flossing techniques, as well as fun and interactive paper activities and puzzles.

An age-appropriate survey collected basic data and found that more than half of the elementary students had experienced at least one cavity. The findings underscore the need for early educational interventions to raise awareness about the importance of oral health and to promote good brushing and flossing routines.

After each session, the kids received oral health supplies to take home as well as healthy snacks to reinforce what was taught during the preceding session.

Dirksing added, “My involvement in this project has been an extremely rewarding aspect of my time in PA school, and I look forward to carrying over the leadership skills and lessons that I’ve learned to my career following graduation.”

In addition, Dirksing will share her project’s results in a poster presentation at the Ohio Association of Physician Assistants (OAPA) Fall Conference. Check out her lessons plans here to adapt for oral health outreach in your community.

This project was supported by the nccPA Health Foundation’s year-round grant programs.

Mount St. Joseph University PA students teaching oral health topics at the Sayler Park school.

Shenandoah University Aims for a Better Tomorrow

Posted: January 2020

Twenty-five Shenandoah University PA students participated in leadership training aimed at preventing provider burnout, a critical, yet often overlooked, issue among healthcare providers. The training was designed to equip students to foster a positive healthcare environment, prevent future medical errors, and improve patient outcomes.

Described as feelings of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and lack of personal accomplishment, burnout has reportedly affected 30% of PAs. Research shows that leadership opportunities and team building events are effective in preventing professional burnout. Despite these findings, a majority of PAs do not receive formal leadership training until they are on the job. Shenandoah University PA student Abby Sekulich and Program Director Anthony Miller, M. Ed, PA-C worked together to create a leadership training program, called the “Shenandoah University Physician Assistant Student Society (SUPASS) Summit.”

The Summit was designed for the current and incoming PA student officers from Shenandoah’s Winchester and Leesburg campuses. The Summit’s goals were to enhance student leadership skills, build teamwork, teach strategies to prevent burnout, and foster intercampus relationships.

Facilitated by PAEA’s Senior Director of Organizational Development Kendal Mealy, the Summit’s exercises were inspired by The Leadership Practices Inventory. During the one-day event, PA students were encouraged to share their visions, enable others to act, and publicly recognize their peers.

As burnout is often associated with poor patient and interprofessional relationships, one activity challenged PA students to build camaraderie and foster positive relationship-building skills. PA students selected objects from a designated “encouragement” table and publicly recognized another participant while gifting the small token to their peer at a time of their choosing.

To assess the project’s impact, a post-survey was administered. All (100%) participants agreed they were engaged with one another the entire day, and 95% agreed the workshop provided them with skills to prevent burnout among themselves and peers. One participant expressed, “[The SUPA Summit] challenged me to think critically about how I can apply different leadership methods as a student, SUPASS member, and future PA.”

Students are already putting these strategies into practice: Sekulich shared that at a recent meeting SUPASS meeting, over ten public encouragements were made, half of those coming from members who had not participated in the Summit.

SUPASS member Courtney Bendig noted the project’s impact. “Though I didn’t participate in the workshop, there was an apparent difference in our program’s dynamic following the event. Communication was more seamless, and general morale among students seemed much improved,” she said.

Shenandoah plans to continue leadership development training for class officers annually, and Ms. Sekulich and Mr. Miller intend to present their findings via a poster presentation.

“This project helped refocus the goal of the Shenandoah PA Student Society to better our program and the surrounding community…taking a moment to appreciate small acts of kindness that can go unnoticed in this busy life as a PA student,” said Bendig.

We applaud Shenandoah for providing PA students the opportunity to develop a skill set that can be carried not only into their classrooms, but also their careers!

This project was supported by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE grant.

The exercises were largely taken from the Leadership Practices Inventory, a book by Barry Z. Posner and James M. Kouzes detailing formal leadership strategies. 

Shenandoah PA students engaged in a variety of team building activities.

Students learned strategies to foster greater engagement and positive peer-to-peer interactions.

Emory University Helps Farmworkers Step Towards Better Health

Posted: November 2019

As part of the annual Emory Farmworker Project, Emory University PA students expanded efforts to improve migrant farmworker health in rural Georgia. Over 60 PA students, PAs, and other health profession providers and students assisted in providing nearly 1,750 pairs of socks to agricultural workers, a simple-yet-effective solution to foot infections.

Established by an Emory PA faculty member in 1996, the EFP has provided healthcare to over 27,000 farmworkers, a population severely lacking access to care. The organization continues to grow with an average of 200 volunteers each year. Additionally, EPF boasts interprofessional and cross-organizational aspects, with multiple health professions and universities joining Emory to expand its reach.

Farmworkers often spend long hours picking crops in wet fields, which contributes to a high prevalence of foot infections; and grantees sought to further address that need in this year’s clinics. To prepare for providing care, volunteers participated in an orientation that educated them about common health ailments for farmworkers such as tinea pedis (athlete’s foot). Further, the training emphasized that having clean, dry socks can help prevent foot disease. Students also learned how to educate patients about proper foot care.

In addition, Emory PA students took part in National Farmworker Awareness Week (March 24-31), where they participated in panel discussions advocating for farmworker justice and increasing their knowledge about the targeted population.

The project hosts clinics for – two one-week periods in June and one long weekend in September – in Bainbridge, GA and Valdosta, GA. The project was a success with over 1,700 underserved patients receiving education and access to compassionate care. The experience continues to be impactful for all involved.

“The scene at a Farmworker clinic site appears often chaotic, but the only thing I truly remember is how grateful I was for this trust [from my patients], and how it kicked me into gear to provide the best care in order to cherish it,” said Sean Keenan, an Emory PA student. “I did my best at Farmworker, but my patients gave me their best, and I'll always remember that.”

The project is an integral part of the Emory PA Program and the goal is to continue to provide hygiene kits containing clean socks to farmworkers. In addition, their work was recognized on the Georgia Association of Physician Assistants (GAPA) website. Emory is pleased to foster continued collaborations to support the program, including collaborating with the University of Utah, whose PA program also conducts a farmworker outreach program.

The expansion of the Emory Farmworker Project to include socks and foot care was supported in part by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE grant.


The shirt speaks for itself! Thank you to our farmworkers and to the PAs who have a passion for improving their health.

Emory PA Program handed out nearly 1,750 pairs of clean socks to help prevent foot infections in farmworkers.

PAs Do That: Outreach to the Future of the PA Profession

Posted: August 2019

The Seton Hall PA program raised awareness of the PA role during a year-long professional outreach program for high school students. Led by Vanessa Rodriguez, MS, PA-C, and Mirela Bruza-Augatis, MS, PA-C, 19 PA students mentored 25 high schoolers, teaching them about the PA profession, basic clinical skills, and the importance of providing health education to underserved communites.

Participating high school students were from academically or economically disadvantaged backgrounds in urban, underserved communities and had expressed an interest in pursuing health science careers.

During the first of five sessions, the high school students learned about the PA profession and scope of practice. Throughout the program, PA students led small-group, interactive, hands-on workshops that taught the high school students basic skills PAs use in every day clinical practice, including how to measure blood pressure, apply ACE bandages, conduct a standard eye and ear exam, and knot-tying techniques.

Additionally, the high school students selected a poster presentation topic based on diseases they could potentially encounter in their community. During the final session, students presented their posters and received a “Certificate of Completion” to represent their practical knowledge gained. The program and certificate will be a resume-builder for college applications and professional opportunities.

When surveyed, nearly 63% of participating high schoolers reported they were “very interested” or “extremely interested” in aspiring to become a PA; and more than 81% stated they would be interested to work in an underserved community.

Further, the high schoolers expressed enthusiasm for the friendships made and the skills learned: “Meeting my PA mentors was my favorite part. They helped me more than they probably realize in my future plans.”

PA students were also surveyed about their interest in practicing in an underserved community; and nearly 92% reported they were extremely or somewhat likely to work in an underserved community hospital or clinic. Additionally, 75% of PA students reported feeling confident in mentoring younger students who are interested in the healthcare field.

PAs students shared that their favorite parts of the program were the interactive learning sessions and mentoring: “It was so rewarding to see the high school students get excited when they looked in an ear for the first time or wrapped an ankle for the first time.”

Plans to sustain the outreach project are already in place, including accepting applications from those who previously participated for additional skills development as well as applications for a second cohort to replicate the project in the next academic year.

Educating and encouraging students from underserved communities on the role of PAs and other providers can have a big impact, especially if those individuals return to their hometowns or similar communities to help close gaps in access to care. Supporting this notion, Seton Hall’s work was recognized at the New York State Society of Physician Assistants (NYSSPA). Their poster, which presented findings from the project, received top honors at NYSSPA's 2019 Conference. Remember, change starts with you!

This program was funded by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE grant.


Seton Hall University PA student mentors and Clifton High Students with their “Certification of Completion”. These certificates will be great to mention when applying for college or professional opportunities!

Seton Hall PA students worked with the high schoolers in small groups to provide “hands-on” clinical experiences.

A.T. Still University PA Program Stubs Out Cigarettes

Posted: July 2019

A.T. Still University PA faculty Annette Bettridge, MS, PA-C, FNP, A.T. Still graduate Julietta Shapiro, PA-C, and nine PA students devised and piloted a PA student-led, no-cost smoking cessation program for 20 underserved male patients at the Crossroads Red Mountain Rehabilitation Facility in Mesa, Arizona.

More than six million deaths occur annually from smoking tobacco. Tobacco use has a strong correlation among those with substance abuse disorder, with an estimated 60-90% co-addicted to tobacco and another substance.

The program’s goal was to reduce the number of cigarettes participants smoked using a combination of methods to curb patient’s addiction to nicotine and ultimately improve their overall health. Prior to launching the program, PA students received training on motivational interviewing, health effects of tobacco use, and various tobacco-treatment options.

“Being able to participate in this project not only enhanced my knowledge of pharmacology and treatment plans for smoking cessation, but it gave me the opportunity to work on communication skills such as motivational interviewing,” said Destinee Bowden, a PA student involved in the project.

The program’s first step was to voluntarily enroll patients in nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). NRT uses products that contain a low amount of nicotine without the harmful toxins found in cigarettes; it reduces nicotine cravings and the undesirable symptoms that follow nicotine withdrawal.

Then, over a 14-week period, PA students engaged in one-on-one interviews with patients to explore the advantages and disadvantages of smoking, patient triggers and barriers, and short- and long-term goals. The Fagerstrom Test for Nicotine Dependence, which gauges nicotine dependence in relation to cigarette usage, was administered weekly to assess the number of cigarettes smoked, desire to use, and dependence.

Participants were also asked to keep a journal of cigarettes smoked or nicotine patches/gum used throughout the week. The written homework (journaling) proved to be a barrier for some participants and was replaced with verbal discussions documented by PA students, which encouraged participants to continue the program.

As a result of the program, three participants stopped smoking cigarettes entirely while 80% had a noticeable decrease (as measured by the Fagerstrom scale) in their average daily use of cigarettes and nicotine dependence symptoms. Four of the participants secured positions as staff members at the facility, which may suggest that smoking cessation positively influenced sustained abstinence from other substances. Additionally, 100% of responding participants expressed satisfaction with the overall experience and would recommend the program to others.

“As a prospective PA, I have a better understanding that health maintenance requires a multi-focal approach, including social and emotional supports. Just as the participants looked forward to seeing us, we as students looked forward to serving them,” shared Raven Burrell, participating PA student.

PA student Jordon Stephens added, “I left this experience inspired to carry on this [motivational] interview style with me into my second year of PA school.”

Plans to sustain this project through continued collaboration among A.T. Still University, Crossroads, and their partners are already underway.

Crossroads Inc., is the only provider of substance abuse treatment that offers no-cost scholarship services to individuals who otherwise can’t afford treatment. Crossroads runs seven facilities, including Red Mountain Rehab where this project took place. The patients at the Crossroads Rehab facility struggle with substance abuse, mental illness, limited access to care, and poverty.

This program was funded by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE grant with additional support from Crossroads staff and private donors.

A.T. Still University PA faculty and students involved in the smoking cessation project share their findings.

From left to right: Assistant Professor Annette Bettridge, MS, PA-C, FNP; PA students Jordon Stephens, Destinee Bowden, Nicko DeLeon, Megan Barber, Raven Burrell; and Program Director Michelle DiBaise, DHSc, PA-C. (Not pictured: Shane Doty, Wanjiru Landers, Aya Harb, and Jocelyn Ore.)

Training the Trainer: PA Students Teach About Smiles

Posted: June 2019

Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine second year PA student Matthew Morrow, along with faculty advisor Elana Min, PhD, PA-C, and Medical Curriculum Coordinator Sam Ritchey, are providing brighter smiles and healthier futures for at-risk-youth in Chicago. They partnered with the “Children Teaching Children” program to teach an oral health education program to teen mentors, who in turn led educational sessions for elementary school students.

“Children Teaching Children” (CTC), a peer-led preventive health education program, is part of the Chicago Youth Programs (CYP). The CYP was founded in 1984 by Northwestern University medical students and provides over 40 comprehensive programs to at-risk youth ages 3-25.

Through CTC, Morrow led a team of 9 Northwestern PA students who piloted a “train the trainer” program to teach oral health education in their community. Over a period of three weeks, PA students taught one-hour oral health education sessions to eight 7th and 8th graders who had volunteered to be teen mentors to younger students in their community.

Using resources from Smiles for Life, Colgate Bright Smiles Bright Future®, and the American Dental Association®, PA students taught the teen mentors the basics of oral health, common oral health diseases, and preventive dental care during weeks one and two. In the third week, earlier concepts were reinforced and the teen mentors then developed their own plans for sharing what they had learned.

In week four, the teen mentors, with support from Northwestern PA students, put their oral health knowledge into practice by leading a one-hour program with elementary school students (ages 7 to 12). Interactive educational activities, including plaque tablet demonstrations, strengthened the curriculum and were engaging for the students. Additionally, each participant received an oral health gift bag containing floss, toothbrushes, toothpaste, a brushing calendar, and plaque tablets—tools to help them continue their new oral hygiene habits at home.

The program was a success. Before the educational sessions, the teen mentors rated their knowledge of oral health at 5 out of 10, and their confidence in teaching oral health 4.1 of 10. After the project, the teen mentors rated their knowledge level at 9.3 out of 10, and their confidence to teach oral health 9.6 out of 10.

"The CTC program is impactful because it affords students the opportunity to not only see themselves as leaders but as educators as well. Through the oral health grant, our 7th - 8th grade mentors were both able to learn about an important health topic they often have limited access to and take ownership of that education by teaching our elementary aged participants. Both mentors and younger participants alike expressed how much fun they had; suffice it to say, everyone was all smiles," said Chelsea Corbett, MSW, Uptown Youth Program Manager, Chicago Youth Programs.

Similarly, Northwestern PA student participants rated their oral health knowledge prior to the program at 4 out of 10, and their confidence level in their ability to teach oral health to others was rated at just 3 out of 10. After the program, average self-ratings for both knowledge and confidence jumped to 9 out of 10, demonstrating the impact of this outreach in reinforcing education.

“By educating populations at risk, the project aimed to both help fight oral disease and equip PAs with the knowledge to continue the education during future examinations,” said Morrow.

Morrow and his team plan to submit a proposal to present a poster for next year’s AAPA conference and other PA educational events. The program’s success will also be shared with the Chicago Youth Programs as a basis to support and continue this new preventive health program.

“My personal highlights from leading Northwestern’s efforts fit into three major categories – addressing health disparities in my community, building fruitful relationships with underserved communities and their stakeholders, and equipping PAs with the knowledge and skills to advance oral health awareness, prevention, and treatment. I am confident that my classmates are now able to implement an oral health screening in just a minute or two as a result of the project, allowing for a long-lasting impact of the project,” added Morrow.

This project was funded by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Oral Health Outreach grant. Learn more here.

Mr. Morrow teaches flossing basics.

An “egg-cellent” way to learn to brush teeth! Students brushed the dye off the eggs as a method of teaching basic oral hygiene..

Cheese! Plaque tablets were used as an interactive activity with elementary students to emphasize the importance of proper brushing technique.

Northwestern PA students having fun with the teen mentor volunteers. The mentors enjoyed the plaque tablet activity just as much as the elementary students!

PA Student Raises Awareness, Reduces Stigma in His Community

Posted: May 2019

Mental illness and substance use disorder affect 1 in 5 U.S. adults. Less than half of these individuals receive treatment. In Vinton/Roanoke County, Virginia, there are 215 mental health clinicians per 100,000 residents, compared to surrounding metropolitan areas where the ratio is estimated at 816 to 100,000.

With these unmet mental health needs, Hwal Lee, a Jefferson College of Health Sciences PA student, partnered with Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare to offer Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training in his community.

MHFA is an 8-hour course that teaches individuals how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders. By participating in MHFA training, individuals can develop the skills needed to provide initial help to someone who is experiencing a mental health crisis, like how an individual might render CPR before professional help arrives.

His project sought to not only raise awareness but also to reduce stigma surrounding mental illness. Fifty-two participants, including fellow PA students, healthcare providers, and community members, received this no cost MHFA training. The trainings were held on January 26 and February 23, 2019 at the Vinton Library.

“The overwhelmingly positive feedback from PA students who attended MHFA training sessions not only speaks to the power of MHFA training, but also to what PAs and PA students can do to elevate the role of the profession in issues affecting behavioral healthcare.” said Lee.

Lee conducted pre- and post-training surveys to measure the impact MHFA had on the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and opinions of participants regarding mental health, and he found statistically significant improvement. In one-month follow-up surveys, most training participants reported how they had already applied the training’s knowledge and skills in real life situations to help themselves and others.

The project has encouraged Lee to continue collaborating with local and state organizations to provide mental health education in his community and beyond.

“MHFA is the opportunity for me to advocate the role of PAs in enhancing and improving the mental health landscape,” said Lee. “I believe that every PA and PA student has the power to be the best advocate for the PA profession.”

Lee became a nationally-certified Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) instructor in March 2018 as part of the PA Foundation’s Mental Health Outreach Fellowship.

This project was funded in-part by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE grant. Learn more about the Foundation’s grant programs.

Hwal Lee, Jefferson College of Health Sciences PA Student, organized and implemented the “Vinton 50” program.

The flyer promoting the “Vinton 50” MHFA Training course.

Lee taught 52 community members how to recognize the signs and assist those suffering from a mental health crisis.

Family Medicine Clinic Adopts a Program for the Books

Posted: April 2019

Clinically-practicing PA Joanna Hebgen is doing her part to change the lives of children through a simple-yet-effective method: books.

At the SSM Health Family Medicine Clinic in Oregon, Wisconsin, Hebgen implemented the “Reach Out and Read” program, which strives to incorporate books into the daily lives of children and encourages families to read aloud together.

The clinic has distributed more than 450 children’s books and created a “literacy-friendly” waiting area and exam rooms. By adding books and comfy, child-size chairs, children can relax and read before their appointments.

During wellness visits, providers give each child a book they can take home. Upon presenting the book, providers can observe the child’s and parent’s reactions, which offers insight about the child’s development and the parent’s comfort with reading to the child. It also paves the way for discussion about the importance of daily reading.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), benefits from reading can begin as early as infancy. Kids who are read to regularly have a stronger bond with their parents and learn valuable language and literacy skills. Reading also improves their social, vocabulary, and writing skills, and it can make kids kinder and more empathetic individuals as they grow.

“I love giving out books that I read as a child and read to my children,” said Joanna Bisgrove, MD. “Parents and kids love the books. I find that the book is a good way to calm a child during an appointment and build rapport with both the children and parents.”

The clinic’s interprofessional staff all contributed to the program’s success, dedicating an estimated 40 hours to the project last year. Three staff members attended the annual “Reach Out and Read” Conference to share experiences with others implementing the program.

Additionally, the clinic participated in the Oregon Wellness Expo, a free event for families to visit local wellness vendors. Clinic volunteers distributed free books to kids and network within their community.

Due to the program’s overwhelming success, SSM Health plans to make the Reach Out and Read program available at their 25 family medicine and pediatrics clinics in Wisconsin; and funding for the books will be included in the annual budget.

“Reach Out and Read’ makes appointments fun.” said Bisgrove.

This project was funded in-part by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE grant. Learn more about the Health Foundation’s grant programs here.

The program’s mission seems to be rubbing off – this sweet patient is loving the books!

Grants funds were used to create a kid-and-literacy friendly waiting area. Children love to read while waiting for their appointment!

The SSM Clinic Staff attending the Oregon Wellness Expo in Oregon, Wisconsin.

Bryant University PA Program Envisions a Healthier Community

Posted: February 2019

Be the CHANGE grantee Bryant University PA Program partnered with Clinical Esperanza/Hope Clinic (CEHC) to operate a student-run, PA-supervised diabetes clinic that provided free diabetic retinopathy screenings to improve health for low-income residents in Providence, Rhode Island.

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss among individuals with diabetes, and the leading cause of blindness among working-age adults. Through this project, more than 40 patients received screenings to facilitate early diagnosis, preventative care, and referrals for those with severe diabetic retinopathy.

Using an automated retinal camera, PA students quickly and easily obtained high-quality images of a patient’s retina during routine diabetes care. The images were interpreted by a board-certified ophthalmologist, the cost of which was covered by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE grant.

“I became interested in ophthalmology during the didactic year of my PA program, and I feel grateful to have honed my skills while volunteering at our local diabetes clinic,” said PA student Sara Lewis. “Having access to the retinal camera allowed us to improve the health and well-being of our low-income patient population in a very real way.”

Before using the retinal camera, patients needing specialized care were difficult to distinguish; and the waiting period for an ophthalmology consultation exceeded six months. The retinal images allowed patients with acute diabetic retinopathy to secure treatment in a matter of days-to-weeks, saving individuals from more severe vision loss due to prolonged wait times.

PA students identified two cases of diabetic retinopathy so severe that urgent treatment was needed. One patient’s treatment not only prevented bilateral blindness but also improved the patient’s vision. Students also identified several mild cases of diabetic retinopathy, which allowed patients to receive proper follow-up care. In addition to enhancing the quality of care provided, the project also broadened student knowledge.

“[Using the retinal camera] was one of the first moments in which I began to blend my didactic education with hands on clinical experience,” said PA student Collin Denney. “The benefit was two-fold, helping me understand the complex anatomy of the retina and its associated diagnoses, as well as providing an invaluable examination easily.”

Approximately 70 PA students and 5 PA faculty members were involved along with 9 other healthcare providers; and the project’s results were presented at the Society of Student-Run Free Clinics Annual Conference in Omaha, Nebraska. The Bryant University PA Program plans to seek additional funding to ensure clinic patients can continue to receive retinal exams.

This project was funded in-part by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE grant. Learn more about the Health Foundation’s grant programs here.


Students were taught how to operate an automated retinal camera, which captured high quality images of patient’s retinas in order to obtain a diagnosis.

Zapaca Wellness Program: A Tale of Dental & Medical Clinics

Posted: January 2019

Arcadia University’s PA Program changed lives on a medical mission trip to promote global health. In partnership with host organization “Hearts In Motion”, Arcadia PA faculty, students, alumni, and interprofessional partners traveled to four remote villages in Zapaca, Guatemala and hosted dental and medical clinics in each village. The PA-led wellness program aimed to enhance knowledge and improve oral health in youth, while simultaneously treating basic medical needs of adults and children.

Before the trip, students and faculty participated in pre-departure education to develop a better understanding of the needs of the community and how to best serve them. These educational sessions reviewed the medicine involved with the community health projects, raised cultural awareness and provided language training, and encouraged self-reflection.

The dental clinic included an oral screening and exam, fluoride varnish application, and interactive education. Upon completion, children received both oral and basic hygiene supplies, including a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, shampoo, and a bar of soap, for self-care.

The medical clinic consisted of a triage station, vital signs, physical exam tables, and a pharmacy dispensary. Patients also received anti-parasite medications and a daily supply of multivitamins in correspondence to their age and condition.

PA students rotated through both clinics, and patient progress was tracked via an encounter sheet, which contained the patient’s age, diagnosis, and supplies utilized for treatment. The encounter sheets helped monitor daily supply inventory and will inform preparations for future trips.

“The students and faculty were required to use ingenuity in setting up the clinic space and utilizing the resources around to make the clinic usable,” said Arcadia University PA faculty member Zachary T. Weik, PA-C. “Their experience in Guatemala will be invaluable to build their confidence in their own ability to meet any obstacle.”

The outreach also served as an outlet for PAs to collaborate with other health providers, including a physician, nurse practitioner, registered nurse, and occupational therapists.

The trip exceeded initial goals, and PA students were able to directly treat and educate approximately 1,100 patients. Additionally, another 300 individuals were impacted by the team’s efforts to provide meals to community members and to visit and engage children in the local orphanage.

Arcadia hopes to replicate this trip on an annual basis, expanding their reach for oral health education and treatment.

This project was funded by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE grant. Learn more about our Be the CHANGE, mental health, and oral health grants here.


PA students used a crocodile puppet to teach children the importance of oral health.

This trip provided a hands-on experience for students, equipping them with skills they will carry into practice. Above, a student applies fluoride varnish to a patient.!

PA Students Educate Children on Oral Health

Posted: August 2018

Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) PA student Micaela Carter is a shining example of PAs for oral health. With faculty support, Micaela and six of her classmates developed a curriculum designed for elementary-aged children that focused on oral health education and promotion.

Micaela and her peers launched the program by expanding a CWRU partnership with Metro Health, a public healthcare system in Cleveland, Ohio that provides basic healthcare services to students at 13 local schools who do not have access to proper healthcare. The student-designed oral health lessons will now be regularly incorporated into Metro Health’s School Wellness Program.

Starting at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, the PA students successfully taught the oral health curriculum using entertaining and attention-grabbing props in seven classrooms ranging from 12-30 students.

Additionally, CWRU PA students taught the curriculum to 15 preschool children at Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center, a ministry that offers services and shelter to women and children and a branch of The City Mission.

While the project initially faced a few obstacles, including unforeseen circumstances and scheduling conflicts, these determined PA students weren’t deterred; and the impact of this project speaks for itself.

“In just two outreach events, over 118 preschool and first grade children from a demographic with documented poor access to oral care experienced entertaining, relevant, and practical oral hygiene education,” said Carter. “Added to this number are countless staff, teachers, parents, volunteers, and caregivers who were impacted by the investment in the children they are responsible for. And yet, the greatest success of this oral health curriculum lies in its versatility, longevity and sustainability.”

The supplies purchased can be used for years to come, and the next cohort of CWRU PA students is already preparing to continue this work in the fall. Great job, CWRU PA Program!

Learn more about the oral health curriculum and interactive activities that Micaela and her classmates developed here.

Prior to launching the project, CWRU PA students completed the Smiles for Life curriculum, didactic lectures covering oral health, and training on how to teach the curriculum.

This project was funded by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Oral Health Community Outreach grant.


PA students use props to teach children the importance of oral hygiene.

Using “Mr. Gross Mouth”, a PA student teaches a little girl that brushing your teeth is healthy AND fun!

PA Students Impact Underserved Immigrant Community

Posted: June 2018

MGH Institute of Health Professions PA student Emily Thatcher is doing her part to make healthcare accessible to all. With the support of 2 PA faculty members and the school administration, Emily and 8 of her classmates developed and implemented a successful health initiative that served the immigrant population of Chelsea, Massachusetts.

Initially, PA students who were fluent in Spanish planned to teach five health literacy classes. However, as the project began, the students identified additional health disparities that their outreach could address. Thus, not only did Emily and her peers conduct informative health classes; but they also provided screenings for immunization clinics, aided the city in a statewide emergency preparedness drill, held a clothing drive for displaced Puerto Rican families affected by the 2017 hurricane season, and attended Board of Health meetings.

This project had its challenges. Scheduling conflicts and language barriers occasionally required identification of alternative strategies to reach and address the needs of the target population. Ultimately, the PA students positively impacted more than 260 community members, and their hard work did not go unnoticed. The Chelsea City government was extremely supportive, and MGHIHP feels confident that it will be asked to continue to serve this community.

“This project was an example that PA students can be a force within their communities, even amidst the rigors of their studies,” Emily Thatcher said. “It was empowering for students to be able to connect with and teach community members not only more about the PA profession but about key health topics that affect us all so close to home.”

Plans are already in place to continue this outreach with MGHIHP’s incoming PA class; and the posters, online resources, emails, and education materials will support future health literacy sessions.

This project was funded by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the Change grant.

PA student Emily Thatcher (middle) and her colleagues participating in the emergency preparedness drill.

A nursing student helped to coordinate a clothing drive for families displaced during the hurricane season

Health literacy classes were taught in both English and Spanish to enhance knowledge and promote health in a diverse immigrant community.

PA Students Care for Oral Health Needs of Boston’s Homeless

Posted: May 2018

Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS) PA Student Haley Rose collaborated with dental hygiene professor Lisa LaSpina, RDH, MS to develop an interprofessional, service-learning activity that served more than 75 homeless men and women in Boston, Massachusetts.

With nearly 30 volunteers, including PA and dental hygiene faculty and students, Rose coordinated three oral health clinics at the Woods-Mullen and Southampton Street shelters. During each clinic, the students learned from one another and worked collaboratively to take patient histories and blood pressures as well as provide oral care exams and fluoride varnish. Patients also received needed dental supplies and education about the importance of oral health and hygiene. Patients with more serious oral health issues, such as abscesses, infection, etc., were referred to the local dental clinic for additional treatment.

The impact the clinics had on the community was immeasurable. “I did not expect there to be this much interest from the women and men at these shelters in getting an oral exam done. I was very excited when a woman at the shelter told me she wanted us to come back, which is why I ended up organizing a second clinic,” shared Rose.

Prior to the outreach event, the PA students received education about oral health through their didactic curriculum and a presentation from the dental hygiene students.

Rose added, “This project has not only had an impact on the local patient community, but also on the PA students and PA faculty involved. It has been extremely eye opening into how much more oral care needs to be incorporated into our exams and how we need to educate our patients on the importance of oral care.”

The student outreach was published in the MCPHS PA Alumni newsletter and the school bulletin. The program hopes to continue this interprofessional outreach to teach future PA students the importance of oral health.

This project was funded by the nccPA Health Foundation’s oral health outreach grant program.

Haley Rose (left) with colleagues outside of the oral health clinic.

A PA and dental student use teamwork to treat a patient.

A dental student conducted a patient oral health exam as part of the PA-led outreach.

Downstaging Breast Cancer with Education and Training

Posted: March 2018

Breast cancer is the number one cancer killer of women worldwide. In Tanzania, there are no population-based screening programs, and many frontline healthcare providers have not received any formal breast cancer education. When a diagnosis is made, palliative care is often the only treatment option; and mortality is unacceptably high.

To bridge this gap, Tara Rick, PA-C, led a team of three certified PAs that delivered a breast cancer training program. Presented to more than 150 healthcare providers across two sites, the program focused on risk factor education, signs and symptoms of breast cancer, breast exam, and referral. The program included a didactic and lab component, and physicians and nurses as well as clinical officers or assistant medical officers, who function in PA-like roles, participated in the training.

“I am very thankful for the opportunity to execute this project with the goal of improving healthcare provider awareness and knowledge of breast cancer and to diagnose these cancers at an earlier stage in which treatment is possible,” said Rick.

A pre- and post-survey documented the impact. Over half of the participants reported having never received any prior breast cancer education, but 80% acknowledged having seen patients with potential problems in their practice. Participants reported increased confidence in their knowledge of breast cancer as well as the skills needed for breast exams.

The program also generated interest in opportunities to assist with additional screening programs to support downstaging cervical and other cancers.

The project was supported with funding from the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE grants program.

Three certified PAs from St. Catherine University provided education and clinical skills training to more than 150 Tanzanian healthcare providers.

Healthcare providers practice breast cancer screening techniques

Improving Diabetes Management through a Community-Based Program

Posted: January 2018

According to the American Diabetes Association, roughly 30 million Americans have diabetes; and every 21 seconds someone is diagnosed with the disease. Under its PA-led Be the CHANGE grant project, The Memorial Hospital (TMH) of Craig, Colorado sought to impact diabetes care and the prevalence of the disease in their community. Through quarterly community-based workshops, Dr. Elise Sullivan, certified PA Carol Bolt, and RN Cristina Livingston provided diabetes education to over 100 rural community residents.

The workshops targeted community members at-risk for diabetes and those living with diabetes. The TMH healthcare team implemented its intervention across two counties at a senior citizen facility and a health fair. Participants received information on pre-diabetes, diabetes management, meal planning, and physical activity. To promote healthy lifestyle behaviors, the workshops included a health-conscious meal that allowed clinical providers to instruct participants about information found on nutrition facts labels.

Participants were also educated on the importance of being actively involved in their own care. “A lifestyle change program is essential to managing diabetes. We hope to help people with diabetes to change certain aspects of their lifestyle, such as eating healthier, reducing stress and getting more physical activity,” shared Carol Bolt, PA-C. By monitoring their own diabetes outcome measures in collaboration with their healthcare team, patients can make better decisions about their health and adopt behaviors that support their overall well-being. The Memorial Hospital plans to expand its community outreach efforts in 2018.

The project was made possible by funding from the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE grants program.

The Memorial Hospital at Craig visits health fairs and senior citizen centers to provide education on self-care, meal planning, and physical activity.

Providers prepare “nutrition facts labels” for health-conscious lunch

Diabetes-related information delivered to seniors by provider

PArtnering for Healthy Habits through School-Based Health Fair

Posted: November 2017

Who said learning about health couldn’t be fun? Thirty-seven Elon University PA students taught healthy habits to 120 fifth-grade students at Garrett Elementary School through an interactive health fair.

Elon’s PA students organized the fair and developed health education content that focused on nutrition, physical activity, safety, oral health, online safety and screen time, and germs/hand hygiene. The topics were chosen after discussing with Garrett’s teachers the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction fifth grade health curriculum.

During the fair, students rotated through “stations” to learn about each topic. Additionally, parents received a newsletter announcing the fair as well as providing additional information on the PA profession.

"It was incredible working with the children and doing something hands on, and the enthusiasm we received from the students and faculty at Garrett was beyond encouraging. When we're constantly being flooded with new information and tests to study for, it's sometimes easy to lose sight of why we started our journey in healthcare. Having the opportunity as students to collaborate with our classmates and faculty to educate the kids on healthy habits and safety issues was a great way to remind ourselves why we chose this profession," says first-year PA student Anitha Bhuvaneswaran.

The “PArtnering for Healthy Habits” event proved beneficial not just to fifth-graders and parents, but also to the PA students, who put their clinical knowledge and communication skills into practice, while giving back to the community.

“This project allowed me a unique opportunity to provide a meaningful educational experience within my community,” shared second-year PA student Amanda Ferri. “I felt impassioned due to the positive impact it could have on our kids in Alamance County.”

Given the success of their health fair, Elon plans on continuing student-led outreach and expanding their healthy habits project to other schools within the County. Read more about Elon’s efforts on their website or through the North Carolina Academy of PAs.

The project was funded by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE grant program.

Elon PA Students and Faculty

Bridging the Healthcare Gap through Service

Posted: September 2017

Certified PA Lindsay Spencer wanted to do more than just deliver healthcare as a profession. She wanted to use her PA knowledge and skills to bring care to a community where a healthcare system didn’t exist. This summer she joined an interprofessional team of healthcare providers to deliver care and education to 678 people in the Tierra Blanca Mountain Range of rural Guatemala.

In addition to herself, the care team included physicians, nurses, EMTs, pharmacists, and a dentist; and the team addressed an array of needs, including patients with malnutrition, diabetes, congestive heart failure (CHF), seizure disorders, infections, and STDs. Not only did they diagnose medical conditions and distribute medications, but health education about prevention was also key. The team also helped patients get fitted for eyeglasses, and future work will include additional oral health education and screenings, as well as fluoride varnish application.

One of the project’s greatest contributions was helping to establish a system to allow community members to continue receiving care. This new free medical clinic will be supported by a local public health nurse, doctor and dentist; and another group of healthcare volunteers are anticipated to travel back to the region next year. Lindsay plans on being among them. “Personally, being able to stand in the gap of poverty,” she shared, “and help those that are suffering became something I know will become a regular part of my career as a physician assistant.”

Lindsay believes the project not only helped an underserved population, but helped her to grow as a healthcare provider. The outreach project was partially funded by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the Change grant program.

PA Lindsay Spencer conducts health clinic with another healthcare provider

Village house in Guatemala

PA Students Deliver Foot Care to Local Shelter

Posted: August 2017

Thirty Quinnipiac PA students participated in two foot clinics at the Grand Avenue Men’s Shelter where 28 shelter residents were served. Started by two PA students, the Quinnipiac University Foot Clinic has provided a way for medically vulnerable populations to receive foot care in New Haven, Connecticut since 2013. The student-managed clinic seeks to diagnose and address foot infections, painful dysfunction, and dermatological issues.

Quinnipiac PA students learn firsthand the benefits of interprofessional relationships by working with a collaborative student care team. The students represented medicine, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and nursing and work with the guidance of a volunteer podiatrist. Through patient interviews, physical exams and podiatric care, the students put communication and clinical skills into practice.

Shelter residents received such interventions as callus reduction, wound dressing, topical medication application, and monofilament exams for neuropathy. An integral part of the students’ outreach was donating items that could help shelter residents maintain or facilitate their foot wellness; such items included shoes and socks, foot powder, and anti-fungal cream. The students plan to hold three additional clinics this year.

“At the Quinnipiac University Foot Clinic at the Grand Avenue Men’s Shelter, we provided a valuable and underappreciated service to an underserved population,” shared Quinnipiac PA student Jennifer Bellucci. “I found great reward in providing this needed healthcare. Seeing the gratitude on the men’s faces by simply providing a pair of socks or addressing a small foot ailment is a humbling yet fulfilling experience.”

Quinnipiac students are not only committed to sustaining the foot clinic, but are committed to expanding services beyond the clinic. By establishing relationships with two community health centers, the clinic has made it possible for former shelter residents to receive treatment for both their feet and overall health beyond shelter stays.

This Quinnipiac Foot Clinic project was supported with funding from the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE grant program.


Students performing nail debridement and collecting data through patient interviewing.

Display of shoes and other giveaway items that are provided to the residents of the shelter after completing a podiatric assessment and exam.

Brushing Up on Oral Health

Posted: June 2017

Roughly 100 elementary students were taught proper hygiene and habits to promote good oral health through a project spearheaded by the Lake Erie College (LEC) PA Program in Painesville, Ohio and supported by the Lake County Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) organization.


PA students partnered with “Big Brothers Big Sisters” to bring oral health education to four local public schools that currently had BBBS afterschool programs. The PA-led community outreach project consisted of building four learning stations where students could learn the proper way to brush their teeth, fun facts about teeth, the best diets and nutrition to keep teeth healthy, and the harms of tobacco. At each station, students viewed a tri-fold presentation and received health educational materials to take home. They also participated in an educational activity designed to make their learning experience engaging. Additionally, toothpaste, toothbrush or floss was placed in each student’s oral health activity bag before the student moved from one station to another.


“Not many young people know the importance of oral health, so I believe it is our duty as health care professionals to educate them on this subject. I believe our oral health program will have a lasting impact on children’s and hopefully even their parents’ oral hygiene,” shared LEC PA student, Ashlee Grow.


In its first year, this PA-led outreach was featured in The News Herald. To sustain the program, the LEC PA faculty will work with the “Community Outreach Chair” elected from the incoming 2019 PA class. 

PA students teach why it’s important to brush properly through a “white egg experiment"

PA students explain the impact of nutrition on oral health

Healthy Living on Budget

Posted: May 2017

PA students at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) are taking healthcare where it’s needed the most in Galveston, Texas, and have served nearly 180 individuals. “Healthy Living on a Budget” is a product of UTMB’s PA Studies Community Outreach Committee and was supported with funding from the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE grant program. 

For the project, PA students team up with students from UTMB’s Clinical Laboratory Science(CLS) program to provide health screenings and education to community members served by the Galveston County Food Bank and at local health fairs.

Under the guidance of UTMB PA and CLS faculty, PA and CLS students screen community members for hypertension and high cholesterol every second Saturday of the month. Screened individuals are counseled and given information on diet, physical activity, and healthy lifestyle choices. Those needing further evaluation and care are referred to a local health clinic where free or reduced cost health services are available. 

"Our motive for beginning Healthy Living on a Budget stemmed from a desire to practice newly learned physical exam and health counseling skills outside of the classroom while, at the same time, giving back to the Galveston community." Kate Corbin, UTMB PA Student.

To sustain “Healthy Living on a Budget” and ensure continuity in how services are delivered, the PA students with the assistance of a UTMB videographer created a video for current and future student volunteers. (Watch here.) The video not only instructs students on how to use medical equipment; but it also gives instructions on how to conduct patient counseling and document patient outcomes.

The PA Studies Community Outreach Committee will continue to work with UTMB’s CLS program, and plans to expand its interprofessional collaboration to include UTMB’s Nutrition and Metabolism Department.

PA student, Sara Brizina, taking the blood pressure of GCFB employee, Mr. AJ Larson

PA and CLS students provide counseling and cholesterol screening to community members

Health Screenings for the Homeless

Posted: March 2017

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) PA program brought together students across health profession disciplines to provide healthcare to The Firehouse Shelter – a facility serving homeless men in the Birmingham metropolitan area.

Twice a month, Firehouse clients are screened for hypertension, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, and other health issues. In the project's first year, 96 PA students and almost 200 students from other health professions (physical therapy, occupational therapy, clinical lab science, nutrition science and health care administration) provided care at the clinic. During this time, the team delivered care to 185 individuals.

UAB anticipates turning its health screening project into a sustainable program that will continue to deliver healthcare to one of Birmingham’s most vulnerable population. The project has proven to be invaluable not only to the men who receive healthcare, but also to the students who deliver that care.

"My mother used to work at a local women's shelter so I spent a lot of time working with her," said PA student, Ebony Bates. "Seeing first-hand how basic preventative healthcare can be overlooked due to stress of being homeless, encouraged me to do outreach in the hope that I could help play a role in making sure that those needs were met."

The Firehouse project received a 2017 Health Excellence in Interprofessional Education Collaboration Honorable Mention in the caring for at risk and vulnerable communities category. The recognition, a joint effort between the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) and Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC), is presented to a team of health professional students and/or faculty whose interdisciplinary work has significantly impacted community health. Congratulations!

The Firehouse project received a 2017 Health Excellence in Interprofessional Education Collaboration Honorable Mention in the caring for at risk and vulnerable communities category. The recognition, a joint effort between the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) and Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC), is presented to a team of health professional students and/or faculty whose interdisciplinary work has significantly impacted community health. Congratulations!

UAB PA student Christophe Jackson works with a client. After his first day at the clinic, Jackson shared his thoughts, "One, we are all connected and the opportunities to serve are paramount to the health of the community. Two, differences in beliefs, socioeconomics, or creed may arise, however, my purpose as a PA is to be a patient advocate, treat them with dignity and respect, listen and offer the very best medical care possible. Three, people matter."

PA Educator, James Kilgore , (left) with UAB PA students Christina Pardinas, Kristin Bourg, Bellamy Hawkins, Christophe Jackson and Kelley Swatzell, DrPH host a clinic at The Firehouse Shelter.

Mercyhurst PA program hosts Dental Day at Carpe Diem Academy

Posted: December 2016

Eighteen PA and five dental students participated in an oral health community outreach event at an elementary school that reached more than 60 inner-city kids.

Mercyhurst’s PA Program teamed up with the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) School of Dental Medicine to integrate oral health into the PA curriculum and to provide screenings and education at Carpe Diem Academy, a Mercyhurst-sponsored afterschool program.

To foster interprofessional education, dental faculty provided instruction about the relationship between oral health and systemic health as well as hands on experience performing basic oral health procedures such as the pediatric oral examination and fluoride varnish application.

“It is important that proper dental care is integrated into medical care,” said Marcie Fitzgerald, MPAS, PA-C, clinical director of the Mercyhurst PA program. “We are on the frontlines of medicine, and we need to make sure that children are getting the proper care and referrals to dentists.”

The dental and PA students then conducted screenings for dental caries and risk assessments for developing caries at Carpe Diem Academy. Through interactive activities, the children were taught about fluoride, proper hygiene, and diet; and each child was given a gift bag to practice healthy habits at home. Parents and caregivers were provided educational materials on pediatric oral health as well as dental referrals for their children, if needed.

“Oral health is not only done by the dentist, but now needs to be part of family practice and routine yearly visits,” said Alyssa Byerly, participating Mercyhurst PA student.

The Mercyhurst PA Program looks forward to continuing their relationship with LECOM Dental School and bring “Dental Day” back to the community. This project was supported by an nccPA Health Foundation grant that was part of the PA Leadership Initiative in Oral Health. The initiative is supported by the NIIOH and its funders the DentaQuest Foundation and Washington Dental Service Foundation.


Mercyhurst PA program hosts “Dental Day” at Carpe Diem Academy.

UTMB PA students create superhero hideout

Posted: September 2016

Thirty PA students volunteered a total of 300 hours to be the change and bring hope to patients and families at the Ronald McDonald House in Galveston, Texas. Watch this time-lapse video of the transformation to create a Superhero Hideout.

Be the Change grant recipient Wendy Carazo knew from her PA class’s regular outreach activities that the Ronald McDonald House had sustained repeated water damage from hurricanes and others storms. While the damage was repairable, doing so stripped the themed patient rooms and other decorations designed to energize and support families and patients. Recognizing this need, Carazo and her UTMB classmates took action to support their community.

“The children staying at the Ronald McDonald House have demonstrated how strong they are by persevering through their illness. It is our hope that having a special place to ‘hideout’ will help them be confident and brave during their journey to recovery,” said Carazo, UTMB PA Class of 2017. “Plus, through our ongoing involvement with RMH, we are exemplifying our profession’s commitment to being community leaders and promoting the positive impact of PAs.”

This project is an extension of the RMH’s mission of providing a safe and supportive environment for families going through the hardship of caring for a sick child. By decorating a room with symbols associated with courage, the UTMB students hope to empower the children to be confident and brave during their journey to recovery. The resiliency these children and their families display demonstrates that they are truly the superheroes in their own story. We hope the children who stay in the “Superhero Hideout” feel like superheroes and find the strength to overcome their illness.

(Top left to right) Paige Savage, Ashley White, Krystal Carpenter, Julia Case, Forest Trager, Josh Baker, Spencer Anderson, Ashley Unaegbu, Erin Sharpe, Beth Thompson, Stacey Frerich, Heather Cox, Lexie Aldridge, Shama Shaukatali (Bottom left to right) Hannah Ausloos, Lauren Habern, Avalynn Ly, Haley Kemp, Wendy Carazo, Elizabeth Knipp, Danielle Williams, Marlene Martinez, Tiffany Du, Carina Cure, Victoria Rios.

Samuel Merritt PA Students Makes a Change.

Posted: June 2016

Be the CHANGE grant recipient and PA student Jessica Warner and her first-year PA classmates from Samuel Merritt University made a change to improve health by running a medical clinic in the rural, mountainous community of Batata, Panama. They were joined in this interdisciplinary trip by nursing and physical therapy providers and students.

During the three-day clinic, 486 patients were seen; and most patients were treated for musculoskeletal and respiratory complaints. Additional community members will be reached through the patient education materials left at the school where the clinic was held.

The nearest permanent medical clinic is eight hours away on foot, and most residents do not have access to the necessary transportation. As a result, the SMU medical clinic, now in its fourth year, provides the primary source of health care for the community.

“The trip made me feel more confident as a budding medical provider, and it was so incredible to help people in such a remote area,” said Warner. “I look forward to continuing to be the change for health in my PA studies and in my future practice."

First-year PA students and Samuel Merritt PA Program Director ran a three-day medical clinic in Panama. Front row (L-R): PA students Jessica Warner, Ellen Mendoza, Padmaja Murtinty, Diana Ha. Back row (L- R): PA students Peter May, Beverly Carlos, Patrick Ohsann, and Michael DeRosa MPH, PhD, PA-C, Assistant Professor/Department Chair.

Community members lined up outside the school building while waiting to be seen by the PAs and other health providers who had set-up the clinic.

Healthy Teeth, Healthy Smiles!

Posted: May 2016

During AAPA Conference 2016 in San Antonio, TX, two PAs and three PA students volunteered alongside five dental students from the UT Health Science Center School of Dentistry to put on an oral health education event at The Children’s Shelter, a safe haven for homeless/displaced children in the San Antonio Area.

The children live, have meals, and attend school on site. The education event utilized the Pediatric Oral Health Toolkit designed by the SAAAPA Oral Health Task Force (2015-2016) and reached 20 children ranging from 2 to 14 years old. The children were taught about good nutrition and proper oral hygiene practices.

These activities were part of the Physician Assistant Leadership Initiative in Oral Health, a profession-wide movement that brings together leaders and students from across PA national organizations and educational programs to expand integration of oral health in PA practice. Interprofessional collaboration with the dental students allowed the professions to learn from and with each other setting the foundation for interprofessional practice. PAs and PA students can play an important role in eradicating dental disease, through screening, prevention and referral for patients with oral disease.

Smile Detroit

Posted: May 2016

Four health professions students. Two universities. One big idea.

When students and faculty from the University of Detroit Mercy and Wayne State University tried to envision a way to learn together about oral health, Students of Michigan for Interprofessional and Leadership Education (SMILE) Detroit was created.

Funded through an oral health community outreach grant, SMILE Detroit brought together Theresa Gattari, WSU Medical School; Rami Nazarian, UDM Dental School; Kendall Gjetaj, WSU PA program; and Sylvia Hang, RDH, UDM PA program (left to right in picture at right) to design and lead a pilot program to increase interprofessionalism between health professions students through education and promotion of oral health. In February, the SMILE Detroit team hosted an oral health huddle, which consisted of case studies on the impact of oral conditions on overall health and disease, followed by an oral health bootcamp, where students rotated through a series of interactive exercises to lean the oral exam, the application of fluoride varnish, and how to provide oral health instruction to patients.

The students presented their work at the University of Detroit Mercy’s Celebration of Research and Scholarship in April, and plans are underway to replicate and expand the program with future classes of health professions students.

PA-Led TOOTH Program Brings Oral Health Education to Texas Elementary Schools

Posted: February 2016

Grant recipient and PA student Kelsey Berg and her classmates at the University of Texas Medical Branch are making a change with their Teaching Others Oral Treatments and Health (TOOTH) program. The program teaches children about why oral health is important to overall health as well as about brushing and flossing.

The program reached more than 130 children in 2015. Berg replicated the successful outreach event to include an additional 150 children at a local elementary school in February 2016 for Oral Health month. To make the program's expansion possible, Berg turned the event into an interprofessional outreach that included first and second year PA students, nursing students, and a respiratory therapy student, all from UTMB. The success of the TOOTH program is catching; and Berg and her classmates have been invited to bring the program to a local senior center and a community health fair later this year.

PA, nursing, and respiratory therapy students participate in interprofessional Teaching Others Oral Treatments and Health (TOOTH) program during Oral Health month in February 2016.