2021 NC PA Program Update | East Carolina University
by Zana Devlin, PA-S, ECU
East Carolina University’s Department of Physician Assistant Studies, accredited over 20 years ago, is one of only two public PA programs in North Carolina. ECU’s PA program provides each student with affordable, high quality education that becomes the foundation on which future PAs build careers of service. The program’s core mission is to “provide educational experiences which prepare physician assistant graduates to enhance access to primary medical care, with a hope to increase care for the citizens of rural and medically-underserved Eastern North Carolina and beyond”.
Health Sciences Building
The ECU PA program is independent of, but collaborative with, the medical school but share a core curriculum. No more than 40 students are admitted annually to the 27-month program, which includes 15 months of coursework followed by 12 months of clinical rotations. The curriculum features Supervised Clinical Practice Experiences in diverse healthcare settings located primarily in Eastern North Carolina coupled with the didactic phase of the curriculum, which has proven to be extremely effective as evidenced by PANCE pass rates surpassing national average at 100%. Full time faculty provide both didactic education and clinical practice supervision at the Allied Health Campus, which is the largest university-based allied-health provider in the state. Upon completion of the program, PA students graduate with a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies.
The ECU PA Class of 2021, well into their clinical rotations, recently completed their Midpoint OSCE in June and are on track for program completion in December. All students completed a Capstone Research project in January of 2021, prior to starting clinical rotations. This project gave students the opportunity to build on their medical knowledge and further develop their skills in appraising medical literature, highlighting the importance of following evidence-based medicine best-practices. In addition, class of 2021 students participated in an inter-professional event with the PT/OT students in April, where they worked together to formulate a comprehensive discharge plan for a recently hospitalized and medically complex patient.
The Class of 2022, 94% of whom are North Carolina residents, arrived in August of 2020 and includes 35 students with diverse backgrounds and patient care experiences. Fall and spring semesters, and now summer semester, have been delivered as a hybrid style curriculum of both in-person training and virtual learning. Masks, face shields, temperature checks, frequent surveillance testing, and small group in-person sessions have ensured the safety of students and faculty throughout all the learning experiences on campus. So far this summer, the Class of 2022 has completed their pre-clinical education in Neurology, Endocrinology, and Women’s Health, all of which are integrated units of Clinical Medicine, along with courses in Diagnostic Methods, Pharmacology, and History and Physical Exam. Additionally, students are also completing courses of Evidence-Based Medicine and Health Promotion and Disease Prevention topics focused on the social determinants of health and population health crises.
As part of the institutional mission to transform health care, the ECU PA Program is happy to announce that it has received a Primary Care Training Grant from HRSA. This grant aims to increase PA Practice in rural and underserved communities in North Carolina, utilize integrated delivery of care and training involving PA, Clinical Psychology, and Addiction and Rehabilitation learners to address behavioral health needs within primary care practices. As part of this grant, PA students will be involved in identifying and implementing integrative care involving telehealth to improve quality of life for patients in communities. To meet these objectives, changes within the PA curriculum have become further integrated and will increase the ability to further utilize inter-professional OSCE experiences with behavioral medicine learners, discern and apply ethical decision making, provide SBIRT and telehealth training, and develop a greater understanding of social determinants of health and use strategies to promote healthy behavior changes. In addition, learners, preceptors, and staff will be able to receive evidence-based training approaches designed to manage provider challenges and increase resiliency/decrease burnout. The ECU PA Program is excited to establish these opportunities within the numerous counties that surround the region, and looks forward to improving the lives of our patients while increasing unique learning experiences and fostering care of providers and students.
Earlier this spring, Class of 2022 Pirate PA students joined in the fundraising event of Pirate vs. Cancer to show support for the pediatric cancer patients by shaving their heads and cutting their hair to raise awareness. One hundred percent of all funds raised went to the benefit programs and services at the James and Connie Maynard’s Children Hospital here in Greenville, and will be designated for the needs of pediatric cancer patients.
In the coming weeks, ECU PA faculty and students will participate in a mission to help and serve the Greenville community via Joy’s Soup Kitchen. This initiative, led by professor Natalie Smith, MS, PA-C, aims to gather the ECU PA Studies community in helping provide meals to the poor and homeless in the community. Joy’s Kitchen is the only place in Greenville that prepares and serves free, nutritious, hot mid-day and evening meals to the ones in need.
This summer, two of ECU’s PA faculty members, professors Audrey Eaves and Natalie Smith, advanced from Clinical Assistant Professor to Clinical Associate Professor. Professors Eaves and Smith, both fellow pirates and graduates of ECU’s PA Program, proudly serve at their alma mater educating future pirate PAs in Clinical Medicine, Diagnostic Methods, and hands on simulation-based learning to allow for advancement of skills through practice. In addition, Dr. Alan Gindoff, ECU’s PA Program Director, has advanced to Clinical Professor. Dr. Gindoff, who has been serving in the role of the program director since 2011, has been a clinically practicing PA since 1992. Dr. Gindoff was a student representative of NCAPA for the Wake Forest PA program while in PA school, and has been impressed with NCAPA and the advocacy efforts on behalf of PAs in North Carolina ever since. He has been an item writer for the Physician Assistant Educational Association (PAEA) and the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). He currently serves as a site visitor for the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA).
Recognizing the challenges that the pandemic of 2020 brought upon PA programs nationwide, students at the ECU PA Studies feel very fortunate and thankful for the leadership of faculty, staff, and administrators who quickly adapted to the unforeseen circumstances, all while sustaining the quality of our education and ensuring the safety of students and faculty. Class of 2022 is a proud cohort of pirates looking forward to welcoming the incoming class of 2023 in just a few weeks.
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