Excellence in Physician Assistant Training Through Faculty Development

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Once again, experts predict a shortage of health care providers by 2020. The physician assistant (PA) profession was created in the 1960s to address a similar need. Currently, there are 141 accredited PA training programs in the United States, 75 of them established in the 10 years between 1993 and 2002. Historically, PA education and practice models have been responsive to the ever-changing landscape of health care. It may be the profession's flexibility and adaptability that has enabled it to survive and flourish in a competitive service environment. The growth of new PA programs mandates a need for continuing faculty development, as increasing numbers of educators hail primarily from clinical practice and come equipped with minimal teaching experience. PA faculty development addresses these new recruits' needs to develop model curricula, implement new courses, and enhance instruction—all with the goal of improving both access to and quality of health care.

The author describes the impact of Health Resources and Service Administration Title VII, Section 747 (Title VII) contracts in addressing this need. Title VII-funded PA education projects, considered innovative at the time of implementation, included both faculty development workshops that promoted active learning of basic teaching and administrative skills and new curricula designed to enhance faculty teaching in genomics and practice management. These projects and others resulted in enduring professional resources that have not only strengthened the PA community but also enjoyed broad applicability within other health professions groups.

This article is part of a theme issue of Academic Medicine on the Title VII health professions training programs.

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