Q&A with David Payne, PA-C, MPAS, Physician Assistant Educator at the University of Charleston
David Payne is a PA working in academic medicine at the University of Charleston in Charleston, West Virginia. He received a BS in psychology from Arizona State University and his master's in physician assistant studies from University of St. Francis in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Prior to UC, David served as associate director and clinical assistant professor for the Rocky Mountain College PA Program, and academic director and clinical instructor for the PA program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also created www.Physician-Assistant-ED.com , a community-driven PA education web site. David says his career in academic medicine, "although very challenging, is exceptionally rewarding…I absolutely love it!"
Q: Can you talk about your educational background?
A: I received a bachelor's of science in psychology in 2000, and originally planned to become a counselor. I attended a master's of counseling program at Arizona State University for a short period of time before deciding to become a physician assistant.
My background in psychology has proved to be invaluable. Mental health issues are exceedingly common in all areas of medicine, but particularly in family medicine, where I have spent most of my clinical time.
Q: What motivated you to become a physician assistant educator?
A: I have always loved teaching. I have a long history of participating as an instructor for the church I attend. Practicing family medicine was rewarding, but I felt I could have a much greater impact through teaching. Instead of just affecting the lives of my patients, I could affect the lives of countless numbers of patients through teaching students how to become exceptional physician assistants. I also need variety in my professional life. With teaching, there is always something different going on throughout the year: admissions, the new class of students, all the different courses, graduation, teaching, service and administration. It's a very stimulating career for someone who consistently needs a change of pace.
Q: Can you describe the University of Charleston? What is the major focus of the university?
A: The University of Charleston (UC) is a small private university of about 1,400 students with a strong emphasis on outcomes-based learning. The philosophy here is that it is all about what the student is capable of doing, not whether there is a certain grade listed next to a course. Regardless of the area of study chosen, no student leaves the university without demonstrating their capabilities associated with the following core learning outcomes: citizenship, communication, creativity, critical thinking, ethical practice and science.
Q: When and how did you start at the University of Charleston?
A: I was hired as the founding director for the new physician assistant program at UC in May 2011. This came about through meeting the new provost, Letha Zook, EdD, at the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) conference. She was on a mission to find a program director. What started as a brief exchange turned into an hour-long conversation. It was clear we both shared similar values and philosophies about healthcare education. Prior to serving as a University-level administrator, Letha was the program director for a few physical therapy programs. Before I knew it, I was on a plane to Charleston for an interview.
Q: Where did you work prior to the University of Charleston?
A: I served as the academic director at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's PA Program for a couple of years and prior to that I served as faculty and associate director for a stint at Rocky Mountain College's PA Program in Billings, Montana. I'm extremely grateful for both experiences, as they were crucial in shaping me into who I am as an educator and the philosophies I bring to UC.
Q: How is being a PA educator different than being a PA clinician?
A: The most important thing to understand is that academia is an entirely different career. You go from practicing as a clinician to educating as a professor. Yes, the content you are delivering is medicine and you have to have expertise in that arena, but that's only a prerequisite to the knowledge and skills you must develop and employ as an educator. Becoming an outstanding educator is challenging. It's not as simple as walking into the classroom and sharing the experiences you have had in the clinic or the vault of medical knowledge in your head. I've seen some brilliant clinicians perform rather poorly in the classroom. Even though they had great expertise in their specialty, they hadn't a clue as to how to effectively deliver that information to students.
Q: What is going to be unique about UC's Physician Assistant Program?
A: The first thing we did in developing this program was to reflect upon our previous experiences as students and educators in other programs. We thought deeply about what worked well, and what didn't. As a result, I feel we have put together a phenomenal program that is truly learner-centered and application-based. Some highlights of our program include excellent faculty-to-student ratios where we can take advantage of education through mentoring, a strong emphasis on analytical thinking and problem-solving, a curriculum that will train students to be exceptionally resourceful, and a pass-fail system that reinforces collaboration and a team-based model of patient care. Our students will also produce a practice portfolio, a master's degree-level project designed to cultivate a consistent pattern of self-reflective practice that will prove to be a major strength for them throughout their careers. I wrote a blog post with more information (http://physician-assistant-ed.com/2012/02/university-of-charleston-physician-assistant-program-now-accepting-applications/) for anybody interested in learning more.
Q: Speaking of, can you tell us about the web site you created, www.Physician-Assistant-ED.com ?
A: A few years ago I was at the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) conference soaking up volumes of excellent information when I was struck with an idea. Why not create a community-driven physician assistant education web site that could be of benefit to prospective PAs, current PA students, PA educators, and clinical PAs? I knew nothing about building web sites but I liked the idea so much that I dove in to learning everything I could possibly learn. Fast forward a few years and we now have a popular web site with a community of over 3,000 members.
Q: What are some of the features currently available on www.Physician-Assistant-ED.com ?
A: Up to this point we have focused mainly on developing features for Prospective PAs. Our PA Program Profiles provide detailed summary information for every program in the country, including things like prerequisites, entrance requirements, and host city information. It makes researching PA programs a breeze for all who are interested in applying to PA school. We also have a Perfect Fit Search feature and True Cost to Attend Calculator. These tools really help prospective applicants think through what programs will best fit their needs. Of course, we also have a blog where we publish all kinds of helpful posts. Perhaps most importantly, Physician-Assistant-ED.com is a community web site. All registered users have their own Facebook-like wall where they can post status updates. You can also "friend" others, create your own groups, send private message, and participate in discussion forums. Another great feature is our Links Libraries. We have worked hard to develop a central repository of outstanding links that are helpful for PAs at all levels of their career. This will need continual development but we already have dozens of categories and hundreds of links that users will find most helpful. One example is our "Point of Care Clinical" category, which contains over a dozen links that are really helpful for Clinician PAs.
Q: What other features will you be launching or are considering at this time?
A: There are so many ideas that we are floating around, two of which I can tell you have a great chance of coming to fruition. The first is the development of a Physiology Self-Assessment tool. It would be really helpful for those who are considering PA school to find out where they are at with their physiology knowledge. We see so many applicants who have not taken physiology for a few years and they are concerned about whether their knowledge base is sufficient. This would help answer that question, guiding them on whether it might be helpful to retake physiology prior to matriculating into PA school, or at least really brush up through self-study. Another feature is a centralized curriculum sharing resource. I think it would be great for us as PA educators to share more of what we are doing. I strongly believe it will stimulate a better educational experience for all in the end.
Q: Can you share some memorable moments working with students?
A: I had a man in his mid 50s who graduated from PA School after working an entire career as a potter (http://physician-assistant-ed.com/2010/06/never-too-late-to-follow-a-dream/). That was really neat. I also remember one time a student was performing a history and physical on a standardized patient (paid actor simulating a clinical experience) and during the course of the review of systems she asked the patient, "Does your urine hurt?" She was completely oblivious to why the patient and I were laughing. She was so nervous she had not realized what she had said.
Q: What are the greatest challenges you face in PA education?
A: We are embarking on another period of rapid growth. A short while ago I attended a conference where I learned that there were 40+ new programs in the pipeline that would be seeking provisional accreditation over the next four years. To use some business lingo, highly qualified PA educators are in a high demand and low supply. This puts a great responsibility on us as a profession to make sure that as we grow, we are putting forth the effort necessary to adequately train the next generation of PAs. This means recruiting, and developing, clinician PAs who have an interest in going into academia. I think it also means learning how to better share excellent resources across programs at a larger scale.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I love the camaraderie of working with fellow faculty members and students who are passionate about medicine. I love to see students grow from knowing very little about medicine to working through complex cases and developing insightful assessments and plans. I love to see students develop to the point where they are able to "talk medicine." Initially, there is only so much you can discuss with them because much of the medical jargon you use in your professional life will go over their heads. As they mature in their knowledge and skills, they are able to join in the conversation using a language that was foreign to them not long ago.
Q: What do you dislike most about your job?
A: This one's easy—dismissing a student from a program is definitely what I dislike most. We make a valiant effort during the admissions process to select students who we think will be successful. However, the reality is that there will always be the occasional student who, for whatever reason, is not up to the task of becoming a physician assistant. The most challenging thing about it is the fact that you have developed a relationship with this person. As program director, I'm the guy who has to tell someone that his/her dream is not going to become a reality.
Q: Are you currently involved with any research projects?
A: I'm currently teaming up with our PhD psychology faculty to see if we can learn more about the impact of interpersonal and communication skills training on PA students. I think this has been an area that has not been emphasized enough. We need to do a better job of arming our students with specific skills that will help them to better communicate with patients and colleagues.
Q: What is the most important thing you've learned over the course of your career?
A: Strong relationships are foundational to everything else. We are much more effective and can accomplish so much more with our patients, colleagues, students, fill in blank, when we take the time to develop outstanding relationships. The more time I dedicate to developing relationships the more fruit I see everywhere.
Q: How has working in academic medicine allowed you to grow professionally?
A: I think as students we take for granted the opportunity we are given to focus 100% of our time on the study of medicine. Once practicing in the real world, I was so busy seeing patients that it was hard to find quality time to dedicate to learning more about medicine. You do what you can with the spare time you have. As an academician, on the other hand, part of your job is to dive deeply into learning more about medicine, so you can present content to the students as best you can. This results in tremendous development of your personal knowledge of medicine. I just recertified this year and did not dedicate one minute to studying for the exam. I'm happy to report that I passed with a very high score!
Q: What advice do you have for others thinking of entering PA education?
A: Come join us; we need you! A career in academic medicine, although very challenging, is exceptionally rewarding. I cannot for a moment imagine myself not being in education. I absolutely love it!
|Short Link: http://www.news-line.com/?s173722|
comments powered by Disqus