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The Pulse

  • Leading the Way | Jacqueline Barnett, DHSc, MHS, PA-C


    North Carolina PAs leading the way for future PAs through education.


    Jacqueline Barnett, DHSc, MHS, PA-C, is the Program Director of the Physician Assistant program at Duke University. Jacqueline grew up in Tracys Landing, Maryland, a rural tobacco farming town with a population of about 1300 people. She attended undergrad at the “wild and wonderful” West Virginia University, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology and audiology in 1985.

    Jacqueline was working at a small community hospital when the psychiatrist she worked with suggested she consider medical school or becoming a PA. He introduced her to Joseph, a PA in the ER whom Jacqueline had always admired due to his passion for teaching students and his interactions with patients. After meeting Joseph, Jacqueline was hooked on the idea of becoming a PA and reached out to George Washington University to learn more about their program and the profession. She was impressed by the amount of time the program director spent talking with her, answering questions, and following up by sending her information in the mail. Jacqueline applied to and attended the GWU PA Program and graduated in 1994, when it was still a bachelors program. She then went on to receive a Master of Science in Health Science from GWU a few years later.

    Jacqueline has always “been interested in education and was first inspired by (her) fourth grade teacher who pushed for education excellence and equity.” She, along with Jacqueline’s zoology teacher, were caring teachers and advocates, profoundly impacting Jacqueline’s own educational journey. As a PA student, Jacqueline was “impressed and inspired” by the GWU PA Program faculty and their involvement in the profession. She became involved in various aspects of education and advocacy as a student and, after graduation, Jacqueline served as an adjunct instructor to help teach clinical assessment and support admission efforts.

    Jacqueline got involved in the PA profession as an educator to “improve the opportunities and lives of others” and became the Program Director at Duke in 2018. When asked what her favorite aspects of the role are, she shares:

    I enjoy many things about this role including being at the table and networking across the institutions advocating for the PA Program and for PAs. I enjoy leading the program in a way that challenges norms in order to enhance efficiency, effectiveness, innovation, and inclusion and seeing the benefits of these efforts. There are so many things that I love about my role, but none more than working with the faculty, staff, and students that I try my best to dutifully serve every day. While serving as a PD is a huge responsibility and can be a very challenging role, I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve in this manner. Seeing the absolute transformation of students from matriculation through graduation is just heartwarming. Likewise, working with and learning from the faculty and staff who are so committed to excellence and who have such a passion for education is the best thing ever. While the past 18 months dealing with COVID, racial reckoning, and so many other events have been the most challenging of my career, the manner and grace in which our team of faculty, staff, and students navigated this time, I believe will go down as the proudest and most amazing accomplishments of my time as a PA educator and Program director.

    Education, leadership, service, and advocacy have always been important to Jacqueline. She has been an active member of her PA state academy since becoming a PA and served on the board of directors of the DC Academy of PAs for 13 years. After joining the Duke PA Program faculty in 2015, Jacqueline joined NCAPA and believes that “membership is vital to the success of NCAPA and to PAs in the state of NC and to the PA profession. In order for the NCAPA to support the needs of PAs and advocate for optimum PA practice regulations in the state, they need the advocacy, knowledge and skills of PAs, as well as the financial and human capital of membership to do the work.” She hopes that PAs in North Carolina “continue to be able to practice at the top of their license and in a manner in which their work is reimbursed, compensated fairly, and valued and acknowledged, especially at the state level.” She also would like to see PAs have more direct regulation of PA practice in the state.

    Graduation ceremony for the Duke Physician Assistant Program class of 2021 at Duke Chapel


    Jacqueline loves being a PA, stating that “next to marrying (her) husband, becoming a PA was the best decision (she) ever made.” Her husband is on the faculty at GWU, so they maintain residences in both Maryland and Durham. She has been impressed with Durham, realizing that it is a “much more artsy and foody town” than she was expecting, prior to her arrival six years ago. And though Jacqueline is not currently practicing, she has experience practicing in pediatrics, family practice, infectious disease, and forensics. Her passion is working in underserved communities and she plans to begin seeing patients at the TROSA Clinic in Durham this fall. She shares:

    At the root of why I became involved in the profession as an educator has been to improve the opportunities and lives of others. My passion and personal mission has always been and will always be to engage in activities to improve access to education and healthcare to rural and underserved communities, and populations that have been marginalized and historically excluded. As a woman of color, from a rural and underserved area, this speaks to the heart of who I am, and the purposeful life I pledged to lead.



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