A 2018 graduate of the University of Lynchburg’s Doctor of Medical Science (DMSc) program has been elected president of the American Academy of Physician Assistants. The organization represents and advocates for more than 131,000 PAs across the U.S., its territories, and uniformed services.
Dr. Beth Smolko ’18 DMSc will begin a three-year commitment on July 1. She will spend the next year as president-elect, followed by one year as president and one year as immediate past president.
Two of the last three AAPA presidents came out of Lynchburg’s DMSc program, which saw its first graduates in 2018. The AAPA’s current immediate past president, Jonathan Sobel, is a 2018 DMSc graduate.
Asked why she wanted to be AAPA president, Dr. Smolko said there are numerous issues facing the profession right now that she is ready to take on. “The AAPA is at a critical point in the history of the PA profession, with issues that require strong leadership and commitment to see them through,” Dr. Smolko, a PA for 12 years, said.
“I felt, through my experience and passion for the profession, that I was ablest to see these initiatives through.”
Causes dear to Dr. Smolko include Optimal Team Practice, which would eliminate the requirement that PAs work under a specific physician; a title change for the profession; virtual care; and leadership and development.
“I would like to see all states make advances in legislation and regulations that support the elimination of agreements with physicians at the state level and have scope of practice determined at the practice level,” Dr. Smolko, who also is director of the PA medicine program at Frostburg State University, said.
“I hope to see direct reimbursement for PAs passed in Congress. I have also made virtual care and leadership development for PAs a priority. I will work with PAs in virtual medicine and telemedicine to bridge the gaps that prevent PAs from entering virtual care.
“I will also work to create more leadership development opportunities for PAs wishing to hold leadership positions in hospitals and health systems, as well as organizational leadership.”
Stephen Lewia, a 2018 graduate of Lynchburg’s Master of PA Medicine program and a current DMSc candidate, was elected director-at-large of the AAPA. His two-year term begins July 1.
Lewia, an emergency medicine fellow at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in San Bernardino, California, is currently president of the AAPA Student Academy Board of Directors and the student director on the AAPA Board of Directors.
“My biggest thing for running was to add an early career PA voice to the board, something we haven’t had in the past,” Lewia said. “I wanted to bring that voice and that voice for PAs in general.
“We just have a lot going on with our profession. We need to continue working with that and create positive change for the profession, which will create positive change for our future patients.”
For Dr. Jeremy Welsh, dean of Lynchburg’s School of PA Medicine, the elections of Dr. Smolko and Lewia say a lot about the DMSc program.
“What it shows is that our program is committed to leadership and advocacy, and the people in the program, or who have completed the program, are really making a change for our profession on the local, state, and national levels,” he said. “And that our program is a tool you can use to be able to obtain these positions.
“How proud we are of our graduates, of Stephen, who is probably the youngest early career PA to ever be elected to the board. Beth is a leader in the practice of medicine and also a fellow educator, like myself. How proud I am of them to be able to step up and be a catalyst for change in the nation.”