Q: Congratulations on your appointment and on your new role as co-chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee for NCAPA! What are you excited about in this new role?
A: This new role is very exciting for a few reasons. First of all, this is my first experience in a PA leadership position. I am very excited about the opportunity to give back to the PA profession!
Also, the focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion is near and dear to me especially being an African American female. Often times in academic or professional settings I was the only person of color in a room. At times I was uncomfortable, yet I was mindful of my actions or appearance to make sure I did not make anyone else uncomfortable. This is why diversity and inclusion are so important. Especially inclusion. Everyone should feel welcomed, respected, seen and heard. They should feel comfortable being just who God created them to be. I realize how much representation truly does matter, across all areas — including, of course, the PA profession.
Q: What are the goals of the committee?
A: We have several!
1) We will focus on helping improve diversity within the profession. Our plan is to engage with historically Black colleges and universities on recruitment, resulting in more diverse populations going into the PA profession.
2) Our plan is to develop CMEs on healthcare disparities. Oftentimes, these disparities are related to socioeconomic and environmental disadvantages. So our goal is to be able to identify where those disparities are, and offer CMEs on those topics – related to COVID, HIV, and other issues. Ultimately the goal is to mitigate these disparities.
3) We will offer implicit bias training to the NCAPA Board Members, and offer ways to look at our own respective biases. Of course, we will start internally within our committee of 10-12 members, and then we would like to take it outward to the other Board Members. We are very excited about the work we plan to do and the potential for change in these areas!
Q: What opportunities do you see for the PA profession to increase access to care for patient populations, and to reduce healthcare disparities?
A: We as PAs are vital to the healthcare team and collaboration is vital. Also, it is crucial for us to mirror the populations we serve. It is so important to recruit providers from diverse cultural backgrounds and racial ethnicities, because we are treating a variety of patients. I truly feel that diversity helps to improve delivery of care and helps to foster better relationships with our patients. It is also necessary to show PAs from different backgrounds in all types of roles, at all levels — regional, state, and national organizations.
Q: Why did you want to become a PA?
A: Ever since I was a little girl, I was aware of my passion for helping and caring for others. I was very close to my grandmother, who suffered from chronic illness, and I helped care for her. I always made it a point to learn all of her medications and what she needed. From that point, I knew I would become a healthcare provider.
I became a certified nursing assistant in high school and went on to undergraduate at UNC-Chapel Hill, where I learned about the PA profession in a Health Professions course. The flexibility of the profession and the available work-life balance within the profession drew me in. So I was accepted to Duke University’s PA program, where I graduated in 2009. I have worked clinically in primary care, urgent care, and currently endocrinology, which I love!
Q: What are your career plans and goals?
A: I am excited to announce that I have been offered a position with Gardner Webb’s PA program as principal faculty. I will also be afforded the opportunity to work clinically one day of a week, and I hope that I can continue working in endocrinology, because diabetes care is an area where clearly there are disparities in care. I enjoy working with my patients in Gaston County and surrounding areas, and helping to improve their long term outlooks.
Gardner Webb University is in Cleveland County (near Shelby, North Carolina) which is where I was born and raised. To my knowledge, I will be the first PA faculty member of color. This adds another level of pride and pressure. I want to do my part to have a meaningful impact in the program and pave the way for others like me. I’m thankful for the opportunity.
Q: Why did you choose to pursue the DMSc?
A: I am a firm believer in lifelong education. I always knew that I would eventually return to education. A passion of mine is teaching and mentoring others — in this case the next generation of PAs. I want to always inspire others. My motto has always been, “If I can do this, you can too! Believe in yourself, dream BIG, and remember all things are possible through Christ.”
I also felt like obtaining my doctorate would not only make me more knowledgeable in the topics that we studied, but it would also provide a whole new level of confidence. The PA profession is growing, and of course I want to stay competitive. Many academic positions prefer that candidates have earned a doctorate, and this degree has really helped me in that sphere.
Q: Any other projects you are excited about?
A: I have a passion for inspiring our youth. So I am planning to venture out on another journey – writing a children’s book. I have two young children of my own — the joy of my life! This book will be a fun read for children and parents!