Conner and Orlowski win inaugural PAEA Future Educator Fellowships

Two students from the Wake Forest PA Program’s Class of 2016 have been selected to receive Future Educator Fellowships from the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA). The PA Program congratulates second-year students Kelly Conner and Sara Orlowski, who will attend the PAEA Education Forum in November in Washington, DC, to participate in an intensive two-day student track where they will learn about different pathways into PA education as well as about professional advocacy and research. Conner and Orlowski will also be able to attend sessions about developing teaching skills, building a curriculum, innovative instruction methods, and available resources for future educators.


Conner and Orlowski

Sara Orlowski and Kelly Conner

In her application, Conner focused on what she sees as a major issue in PA education: quality instructors to facilitate continued growth of the profession. She wrote that “while the continued growth of PA programs around the country is encouraging for a strong PA presence in meeting the predicted need for medical providers, such growth also creates more demand for qualified educators to staff these programs. PA programs are highly competitive, and to remain so they must provide the highest quality instruction. Also, the training is at most half completed in the classroom; there are additional opportunities outside the traditional academic lecture hall for teaching. Educators are needed to fill both the didactic and clinical teaching positions. The shortage of clinical training sites will only worsen as new programs open. This is why I view the recruitment, development, and retention of exemplary PA educators to be an important issue that must be addressed and periodically re-evaluated by the PAEA.”

Orlowski described how she was a change agent in the past, focusing on her first patient as a hospice volunteer: “She was the oldest person I had ever met. She taught me about when iris blooms, how to make creamed corn, and what teaching in the South during racial integration was like. She rode in a horse and buggy when she was a child! She was not well taken care of at her facility, and mealtime with the facility staff was difficult because she had ongoing, severe abdominal pain and was a slow eater. I learned after a few visits that she had food caked under her nails because she had been left to eat alone. Arthritis kept her from using a fork. I felt very awkward providing a hands-on service for this patient as just a volunteer, but I couldn’t let her hands remain so dirty. Cleaning her nails was therapeutic for both of us. I poured warm water and some gentle soap into a basin and washed her hands. Listening to the quiet drips of water from the sponge and the gentle strokes of her soft skin made us both feel relaxed and connected. I am thankful for this memory. I am thankful for what she taught me. I am a better person because I knew her.”

Students from more than 50 PA programs applied for the Future Educator Fellowship, which was developed to enhance PA students’ understanding of medical education and academic careers in PA education. It aims to foster professional development and leadership in future PA educators. Winners of the Fellowship were chosen during a competitive selection process to be part of the inaugural class attending this year’s Forum and will receive a $1,000 travel stipend. 



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