International Physician Associate Conference Brings Educators from Around the World

By diprinziod | November 6, 2014

From Oct. 12-17, the International Academy of Physician Associate Educators (IAPAE) hosted its 7th Annual Conference at Arcadia. During the three-day event, dozens of physician associate educators from around the world attended the conference, including delegates from the United Kingdom, South Africa, and the Netherlands. (The term “physician associate” includes physician assistants, clinical officers, medical assistants, and other health professionals.) The conference featured lectures and presentations by professionals in physician associate education who shared experiences they had working in their respective countries.

The academy’s annual conference embodies the purpose of the organization—to identify and develop the best educational practices for physician associates and share those practices globally.

“It’s all about networking, finding our counterparts from all around the world,” said David Kuhns, PA-C, MPH, a professor from Wake Forest University who has worked in the field for 34 years. “We’re all trying to move the physician associate profession forward.”

Nadia Cobb, acting president of IAPAE, finds that the conference encourages policymakers to participate and increases awareness for the physician associate workforce.

“In the U.K., they had mixed support within the government,” said Cobb. “They had two or three programs in the region, but as a direct outcome of our conference last year in Birmingham, they’re on deck to have 12 programs. I think that’s in large part because of the international recognition that was brought forth by this organization in a kind of advocacy role.”

Developing and maintaining connections between physician associates is a vital part of figuring out what works and what doesn’t work in educating aspiring professionals, according to Michael Dryer, PA-C, DrPH, chair of the Department of Medical Science and Community Health and associate dean of the College of Health Sciences at Arcadia.

“This gives us a chance to learn from each other and realize that most of the issues that we think are unique, such as the challenges that students have adapting to different learning environments, actually are not,” said Dr. Dryer. “They’re similar across the globe.”

International collaboration is not unfamiliar to Arcadia’s physician assistant faculty. In 2010, Arcadia received a five-year grant from the American International Health Alliance to help develop clinical associate programs in South Africa. A program at the University of Pretoria was created in collaboration with Arcadia’s physician assistant program. Such work makes Arcadia a great location for IAPAE’s conference.

“Arcadia is in a unique position in that we’re truly a global university,” said Dr. Dryer. “The physician assistant program has been global since it started. So this gives the program the opportunity to be exposed to what’s happening around the world and at the same time gives the world an opportunity to understand what we do here at Arcadia.”