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ATSU-ASHS PA program honored with PAEA Excellence Through Diversity Award

From left to right: Randy Danielsen, PhD, PA-C Emeritus, Tessa Tibben, DHSc, MSPAS, PA-C ’08, Kim Kochanoff, MS, PA-C, Michelle DiBaise, DHSc, PA-C, DFAAPA, PA, Sabrina Finklea-Strickland, MSN, FNP-BC, PHN, FCN, Thomas Hartman, DMSc, PA-C, ’08.

The A.T. Still University-Arizona School of Health Sciences (ATSU-ASHS) Physician Assistant (PA) department was recently awarded the 2022 Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) Excellence Through Diversity award.

This national award honors PA programs committed to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in all elements of PA education. 

“This award is a team effort and validates all the hard work we accomplish every year,” said Michelle DiBaise, DHSc, PA-C, DFAAPA, PA program director and department chair.

“From recruiting Still Scholars, Hometown Scholars and P2P Scholars, to promoting care to the underserved through outreach events in the didactic and clinical year, our PA team not only lives the mission of the PA program and ATSU, but seeks to accept into the program students who also embrace our mission.”

This award demonstrates ATSU’s commitment to serving the underserved and creating a culturally rich community where students can become instruments of change to help improve health outcomes and enhance workforce diversity.

Through numerous partnerships, scholarships, programs, and grants, the PA program has worked diligently to be a leader in diversity throughout the past year.

Outreach programs and partnerships with organizations such as the Be a Leader Foundation, Dreamline career pathways, and Med-Start have demonstrated the PA program’s dedication to underserved student populations.

Recently, the PA program received a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Scholarship for Disadvantaged Students (SDS) grant. This grant will provide $30,000 in scholarships annually for 10 students per cohort, totaling $600,000.

Many PA faculty have also received grants to address health disparities this past year. 

Kim Kochanoff, MS, PA-C, director of clinical education and assistant professor, received a $1.48 million HRSA grant titled “Addressing Rural Health Disparities: Transformative Primary Care PA Education and Preceptor Development.”

Two faculty members received grants from the nccPA Health Foundation that aim to help foster more equitable care and expand practice pipelines in the PA field. Thomas Hartman, DMSc, PA-C, ’08, assistant professor, received a “PAs Step Up Grant,” while Tessa Tibben, DHSc, MSPAS, PA-C ’08, assistant professor, received a “Be the Change Grant.”

Throughout the past year, numerous PA faculty, adjunct faculty, and students have also presented at conferences around the country to raise awareness of diversity and healthcare disparities.

In March 2022, alumna Raven Burrell, PA-C, ’20, MSPAS, MPH, CPH, and Dr. Tibben presented at both the Arizona State Association of Physician Assistants (ASAPA) spring conference and the Beyond Flexner conference on disparities in the field of dermatology. 

In August, a number of graduates presented their capstone projects on access to care for underserved populations at the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) Community Health Institute and Expo.

The PA program continues to see an increasingly diverse class each year, and a growing number of students are going on to practice in rural and underserved communities across the country.

“I have spent my whole career as an educator encouraging students from disadvantaged backgrounds to consider a career in the health sciences and in particular the PA profession,” Dr. DiBaise said.

“I completed my doctoral work examining the barriers to recruitment and retention for historically underrepresented groups. I have worked with the ATSU-ASHS PA team to break down these barriers and provide a holistic admissions process and to provide a culture of compassion, equity, and inclusion. This award validates all that we have all been doing as a team.”

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