Visits to the Stead Center are by appointment only. Please call the NCAPA office for more information. Read More »

Visits to the Stead Center are by appointment only. Please call the NCAPA office for more information. Read More »

The Pulse

  • 2022 NC PA Program Highlight | Duke University
    by Katherine Bullock, PA-S, Duke University

    In 1965, Dr. Eugene A. Stead Jr. founded the first Physician Assistant (PA) program at Duke University. He hoped that PAs could meet the needs of the healthcare system, specifically addressing a shortage of providers to increase access to medical care. The first class, composed of four former Navy corpsmen with extensive medical training accrued through their service, graduated in 1967. The mission of the program is to educate caring, competent Primary Care PAs who practice evidence-based medicine, are leaders in the profession, dedicated to their communities, culturally sensitive, and devoted to positive transformation of the health care system. Throughout the 24-month-long program, students complete a year of didactic learning followed by twelve months of hands-on clinical rotations. The pre-clinical year equips students with the knowledge and skills they will need for rotations through faculty and guest lectures, laboratory sessions, simulation experiences, cadaver dissection, small group discussion, standardized patients, and interactions with hospitalized patients. The following year, supervised clinical practice experiences prepare students for their transitions into post-graduate programs or into professional practice as PAs. During clinical year, students have a number of unique opportunities, including: rotations with special populations such as veterans, the LGBTQ+ community, and medically underserved groups; international Global Health rotations in Honduras, Ecuador, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania; Longitudinal Primary Care rotations; and exposure to public health and healthcare systems in Cuba. With committed, energetic faculty and staff, the resources and technology of Duke’s world-class academic and health care system, and the motivation and enthusiasm of the student body, Duke PA Program creates a supportive learning environment that is rich with opportunities for aspiring clinicians.


    Class of 2022

    Class of 2022 on the last day of didactic year, excited to transition from “Zoom School” to clinical rotations

    The Class of 2022 is currently in their clinical year and just began their eighth rotation. Students complete a total of ten rotations, eight of which are required to be in Primary Care 1 & 2, Behavioral Medicine, Internal Medicine 1 & 2, Principles of Surgery, Emergency Medicine, Pediatrics, Obstetrics & Gynecology, and an individual research project to expand their understanding of evidence-based practice. Based on their interests, students choose two elective rotations from an extensive list of specialty and subspecialty options. During this academic year, the Class of 2022 has been at the frontlines of COVID while working in the ED, the ICU, or in admitting teams of the hospitals. Each month, at the end of their rotation, they return to campus to participate in Call Back days and evaluation exercises as part of the Senior Seminar course. The Class of 2022 will graduate in August of this year.

    After a year of virtual learning, the Class of 2022 celebrated the end of didactic year with their first class-wide face-to-face summer event.


    Class of 2023

    The Class of 2023 is well into their spring semester with courses including Practice and the Health System II, Diagnostic Methods II, Pharmacology II, Medical Spanish, Fundamentals of Surgery, Clinical Medicine II, and Patient Assessment and Counseling II. This semester, students have a number of opportunities to apply what they are learning in the classroom through hands-on experiences. They are practicing physical exam skills and oral presentations during standardized patient encounters. Under the supervision of clinicians working in the Duke University Health System, students conduct clinical assessments in the inpatient setting and practice writing medical summaries. To complement their surgery course, the class works in small groups practicing in-office procedures, diagnostic labs and specimen collection, suturing skills, phlebotomy, and IV placement. At Duke’s Surgical Education and Activities Lab (SEAL) and Human Fresh Tissue Lab (HFTL), they gain hands-on experiences in robotic surgery, simulated emergency scenarios, and procedures including bronchoscopy, central line placement, point-of-care ultrasound, and arthroscopy.

    Class of 2023 scrubbed in for the first time
    Practicing robotic surgery at the SEAL lab

    Outside of their required coursework, students have a number of opportunities to gain clinical experience, build cultural competency, and develop professional skills. This year, students in the Class of 2023 are involved in many such experiences, including: Medical Spanish at the beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels; “Moral Moments in Medicine”, which covers topics in medical humanities and ethics; a “Hotspotting Initiative” that connects students with underserved and socially complex patients; an Interprofessional Anatomy Clinical Procedures lab; and the Duke Navigators Program, which pairs first-year health professional students with a provider mentor to gain experience working with seriously ill patients.


    Community Service and Outreach

    Class of 2023 students volunteering at the Piedmont Animal Farm

    Service is a central tenant of Duke PA Program’s mission and students consistently make it a priority. In the fall, the Class of 2023 volunteered at the Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge, helped out at the Museum of Life and Science’s Annual Pumpkin Patch Express, and ran a food drive to collect donations for the Durham Urban Ministries. A number of students ran in the Stead Tread in October, a race that benefitted a local clinic dedicated to meeting the health care needs of medically underserved patients in Durham. In November and December, they hosted events for donors to contribute to the Red Cross Blood Drive and Be the Match; there will be another blood drive this month. In December, the class ran a Giving & Gratitude Campaign and raised over $1000.00; they used these funds to partner with Project Share to “adopt” a local family and provide them with food, day-to-day essentials, and gifts for the holidays. In March, the PA program will team up with Duke’s Occupational and Physical Therapy students to host an annual Adaptive Sports Experience, an opportunity for students and people with disabilities to engage in recreational sports. Later in the spring, students will visit a local school to educate elementary students on a broad variety of health topics, including Nutrition, Infection Prevention, Physical Activity, and Mindfulness & Self-Care.

    PA students packaging holidays gifts for families during the Giving & Gratitude campaign

    Individually, students volunteer with Church World Service (CWS), a refugee resettlement agency that works to build bridges between refugees and immigrants and the greater Durham community, equipping clients for long-term success in the area. Other students are working with organizations like Urban Ministries, Food Banks of Central and Eastern NC, and Root Causes to address food insecurity in the area. A handful of students volunteer with Duke Health Profession Recruitment and Exposure Program (HPREP), mentoring high school students who are interested in careers in healthcare.


    Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

    (Pictured is Class of 2023 White Coat Ceremony)

    From its beginning, Duke’s PA Program recognized the importance of diversity and inclusion in the PA profession and has been committed to promoting those values ever since. The first African-American PA, Prentiss Harrison, graduated in 1968; the first woman to complete the program, Joyce Nichols, who was also Black, graduated in 1970. Today, Duke’s PA Program is under the incredible leadership of its first African American Program Director, Jacqueline S. Barnett, DHSc, MSHS, PA-C. Because equity, inclusion, and cultural competency are so vital in ensuring high-quality medical education and optimal healthcare, the faculty and student body are passionate about integrating these practices into the curriculum and into daily life at Duke PA Program. From the first week of classes, students begin learning and discussing social determinants of health including socioeconomic status, race, gender identity, disability, ethnicity, and more. Kendra Ireigbe, Class of 2023, holds an elected seat in Stead Society (the program’s student leadership team) as the Diversity Chair. In this role, she publishes monthly newsletters to celebrate diversity at Duke and in the Durham community. The newsletter includes upcoming holidays and events, affinity groups, resources for support and education, and more. This year, the class has been involved in Duke’s chapter of White Coats for Black Lives, Duke’s Student National Medical Association’s (SNMA) 29th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Banquet, and “Dear DPAP and Friends”, a monthly series to discuss pronouns and care for LGBTQIA+ individuals, proper terminology for the Hard of Hearing community, and a variety of other topics.


    Faculty & Staff Recognition

    On January 1, 2022, Dr. Jacqueline Barnett, DHSc, MSHS, PA-C, the director of the Duke PA Program, assumed the role of division chief for the Division of PA Studies within the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health (FMCH). Dr. Barnett was also the recipient of the Physician Assistant Education Association’s (PAEA) Leadership Development Award, which recognizes “her unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion, the PA profession, and service to others.” The PAEA awarded Kate Holeman, the Senior Program Coordinator, the Administrative Support Staff Award, for her “resourcefulness and ability to collaborate with administration, faculty, fellow staff, and students.” Associate Professor, Nick Hudak, MSE, MPAS, PA-C, has been selected as a Research Fellow by the PAEA and the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). Peggy Robinson, MS, MHS, PA-C, was promoted to full Professor in Family Medicine & Community Health. Sarah Prickett was promoted to Assessment & Evaluation Program Coordinator.

    New to the Duke PA Program faculty this year are Janelle Bludorn, MS, PA-C, in the role of Assistant Professor of Family Medicine and Community Health, and Jacquetta Melvin, MHS, PA-C, as a Medical Instructor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. Michelle Parrot joined Duke PA program as Staff Assistant.

    For more information on Duke’s PA Program, go to



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