Augsburg can count it’s lucky stars to have an in-house epidemiologist in Dr. Alicia Quella (right), the Director of the PA Program. Along with Dr. Katie Clark (left), Executive Director of Health Commons and Nursing Associate Professor, Dr. Alicia Quella has been working to provide COVID-19 vaccines to Augsburg students, faculty and staff through the People’s Center. Recently, Dr. Quella was interviewed for Augsburg Now, our university’s semi-annual publication and blog. Find out how Dr. Quella has sought to keep Augsburg safe in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic at Augsburg Now.
The Augsburg Physician Assistant students were able to engage in a Live Ultrasound Seminar for their History & Physical Exam course. An ultrasound scan is a medical test that utilizes high-frequency soundwaves to capture live images inside the human body, thus allowing medical professionals to observe tissues, organs, and vessels without making an incision.
For the Live Ultrasound Seminar, students were broken up into small groups and rotated to various stations. A number of the stations had simulated patients and were proctored by two of the leading Ultra-Sound professionals in the state, Peter Lindbloom, PA-C and Tom Pahl, PA-C. (Be sure to check out an earlier blog post with alum Peter).
Students were able to get hands-on experience while following social distancing protocols. The stations were broken up into two separate rooms including the 13-exam bay clinical skills lab which offered ample space for the student to engage with the stations safely.
Students and the preceptors also wore masks and face shields, gloves, and KN-95 masks that were provided for our live models. The faculty members who organized this seminar, Eric Van Hecke, PA-C and Ryane Lester, PA-C were engaged with students at their stations or working behind the scenes to make sure everything was going smoothly and the workshops stayed on schedule.
The experience was a resounding success which greatly benefits our student’s overall professional development while maintaining their safety. With the changing face of higher education, the faculty and staff at the Augsburg PA program adapt to continually provide students with an engaging learning environment.
Although this August was the formal relocation period of the Augsburg PA Program, we are settling into our new space and have welcomed campus to check us out. Earlier this month, we hosted an open house for visitors to tour our space and speak with staff and faculty. Our new home is in Riverside Plaza with student space occupying the majority of the lower level and administrative offices located on the fifth floor. As a program, students have one central location in addition to staff and faculty being in the same shared space. We have a few spaces available for conferences including a large conference suite on the lower floor to host departmental meetings. Students have a dedicated lounge space equipped with lockers and an ancillary study room.
The clinical skills lab expanded in size from 10 to 13 exam bays plus an 2 simulated hospital bays. This expanded footprint allows for easier noise and temperature control, especially when we have at times 45 individuals moving around. There is plenty of cabinet and storage space to keep lab supplies secure and accessible. Our History & Physical Exam course has integrated SonoSim ultrasound into the curriculum and will be implement live ultrasound instruction during the 2020 spring semester. Special thanks to Courtney Perry for her wonderful photography!
There have been some recent criticisms of short term mission work. Criticisms have revolved around mission “voluntourism” relating to a lack of cultural understanding and performance of work for personal gain rather than true engagement in a community’s needs. I think healthcare is a great exception to this. We have specific skill sets, skills that are otherwise not present in third world countries, and we can directly impact these people by improving their quality of life immensely. The needs in the developing world can be overwhelming. It can feel impossible to make a dent in the problem. The focus, as always, needs to be on our individual patients and the life changing care we give. Although this is “short term” mission work, the impact on our patients is far from short term.
I would challenge everyone to remember why you became or are becoming a PA. Although needs at home certainly exist, consider expanding your practice globally. The need abounds. It will change you as a person and as a provider, you won’t regret it.
For Augsburg PA, the year of 2018 was characterized by significant growth! We grew in all areas, whether it was as a department, incoming cohort or physical space. In this end of year review, we break down all the happenings.
Last May, we welcomed 33 first year students to campus. This increase in admitted students prompted a remodel throughout February and March. With the remodel, classrooms were enlarged, new technology installed and added flexible seating arrangements to promote active learning. Renovations wrapped in early April so that the 2019 cohort enjoyed the space as well!
The cohort of 2020 kicked off the first day of fall semester with a group volunteering event at Feed My Starving Children. Faculty, staff and students packed a total of 15,120 meals within 2 hours. A few weeks later, students attended the White Coat Ceremony where they celebrated moving on to the next chapter of their PA education. We were honored to have Matt Brogan, PA-C deliver the keynote address. Matt directs the Interventional Radiology PA rotation at the University of Minnesota. After the ceremony, students mingled with staff, faculty, family and friends.
In November, the program celebrated the twenty-second graduation class. Every year the graduating class nominates individuals to be the Guest Commencement Speaker, Student Commencement Speaker and Preceptor of the Year. Amy Gerlach, PA-C of Fairview Columbia Heights Clinic, was awarded Preceptor of the Year. Amy has been a preceptor with our program for over 5 years and continues to support PA education. Rick Burris, PA-C, PhD has also been a long-time clinical instructor with Augsburg and was invited to give the commencement address. During his speech, Rick reflected that when he first started out, he was often told he should find a back up plan. However, he didn’t really need one as he says, “Well now, after 50 years of PAs, it seems they were wrong!” Dr. Burris shared 5 things that are required for a PA to survive:
- Listen. It is the hallmark of our profession. Listen to everything a patient says and understand from their perspective any issue.
- Character. So that no one can impugn or challenge your character, put it to the test daily and live out the virtues of integrity, honesty, generosity, sincerity, self-control and loving kindness.
- Experience, all that you can, be it trial, suffering or even the smallest morsel of education, take it!
- Healthy ambition is the measured striving for achievement or distinction, established by integrity and honesty toward all people.
- Success. It isn’t final. It is ongoing and when you put all you have into it, working hard, preparing for tomorrow and learning from failure, you will see success. Success may come in different ways, but it is the realization of success that matters, not the accolades that so quickly fade.
Class President Emma Hermes delivered the Student Commencement speech to her fellow peers. Emma decided to “diagnosis” the class as a way to showcase their uniqueness. She put her PA training to the test by describing the condition, epidemiology, etiology, symptoms, physical exam, diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. During their time in PA school, there were 9 engagements, 7 marriages, and 10 babies. She outlined how these 30 individuals came from their own separate paths and joined together to become the class of 2018: “Well, we thought it would be ‘fun’ to challenge ourselves to learn all we can about medicine in 28 months.”
The clinical presentation of symptoms ranged from positive to negative, and might “include dysregulation of weight and emotions, such as laughing, crying, and smiling all in one minute.” Upon physical exam, you might find some of the following: high blood pressure, elevated heart rate, a general disheveled and tired appearance, intermittent tachycardia, with occasional arrhythmias, likely due to stress, dry and cracked due to excessive washing and sanitizing of hands in clinical phase.” And finally, she reached a diagnosis, the treatment plan and prognosis of the class. In her closing to the class, Emma reassured her class that “although from here we go our separate ways, we will always have something that bonds us together. Over the past 28 months we stuck together through the good days and the bad, to get here. We lifted each other up when we were down, lent a hand when school or life got hard. We not only gained a lot of medical knowledge, we gained each other as friends and future colleagues.”
Yet again our department faculty and staff grew in size. Throughout the course of the year we added three faculty positions and two staff members. Mandy Perkins, PharmD transitioned from part time faculty to being here all the time! Dr. Perkins teaches the pharmacotherapy courses throughout the academic year and assists with the clinical phase. Two alumni of the program, Eric Van Hecke, PA-C and Kristen Lindvall, PA-C joined our ranks this fall. PA education has been a consistent theme throughout Eric’s career as he has been a preceptor and guest lecturer. His career spans experiences in both large, level one, emergency departments as well as small, rural community-based emergency departments. Kristen transitioned from General Surgery at HealthPartners to be a full time faculty. She is excited to train future PAs to function at their highest level and to promote the excellence of Augsburg PA students. This spring we welcomed Tim Capelle as our new Program Manager. He has over 15 years of higher education administration experience and admissions management capacity. Stacey Hegrenes brings her administrative talent to the program and also her superb knitting skills.
The Augsburg PA faculty recently welcomed Amanda Perkins onboard as she switches over to a full-time role within the program. With her change over to full time, Amanda will split her time between the academic and clinical phases of the program. Amanda Perkins first joined the Augsburg PA while filling in during a sabbatical. Amanda worked full time as a clinical pharmacist within the Medication Therapy Management (MTM) program at HealthPartners St. Paul Wabasha Clinic. Over the past year, Dr. Perkins has taught the pharmacotherapy course to first year students. When she is not busy in clinic or teaching, Dr. Perkins enjoys reading, traveling and spending time with family and friends. Recently, she welcomed a new addition to her family – a bernedoodle puppy named Lucy.
What do you find the most rewarding part of teaching?
“Developing the relationships with students and then knowing they will become her peers is a rewarding aspect of teaching.”
What piece of advice do you have for PA students?
“This is more advice for life, although I think it applies in school as well: Look at everything as an opportunity. You never know where an opportunity will present itself or who you will meet that may be your next employer. Also, stay flexible. Your career goals will change and it’s ok. Listen to your heart.”
What is one piece of advice do you tell your patients?
“The medicine only works if you take it.”
Please join us in congratulating Dr. Perkins on her new position!
As thousands of students submit their applications for the current CASPA cycle, faculty at Augsburg PA Program have suggestions and reminders to keep in mind! Take their advice to heart as they all have been in your shoes.
Trent Whitcomb is a clinical phase faculty member who returned to Augsburg PA after a few years away. Trent is a graduate of Rosalind Franklin University of Health Sciences / The Chicago Medical School. His three tips to follow are:
- Do not, under any circumstances, ever refer to a PA as a Physician’s Assistant. My license to practice, NCCPA board certification, and diploma all state “Physician Assistant”. Use of the apostrophe tells admissions committee members that you haven’t done your research.
- Have several people review the essay portion of your CASPA application as well as any supplemental applications that are program specific.
- Research the programs you are applying to and know why you are applying for each program.
Vanessa Bester is our Associate Program Director who has been in PA education since 2007. She graduated from University of Florida’s PA program and came to Augsburg from the University of Washington. She advises prospective students to remember the following:
- Most people applying to PA school have excellent grades, want to help people, and have some clinical experience. So what is going to make the faculty reviewing your application remember you? Think about: How do you align with the program’s mission? Why do you care?
- As an interviewer, I ask: As a human being, when I meet you, could I see myself trusting you with my loved ones’ lives?
Program Director Alicia Quella graduated from the University of Iowa Physician Program and has worked in PA education for many years. Dr. Quella urges students to be yourself! We don’t want you to say something you think we want to hear. In doing this, be sure you do not copy our mission statement; instead think of how you align with our mission and how you demonstrate it.
Professor Eric Barth has been with the Augsburg PA program since 2008 and knows what it takes to get into PA school. He completed his physician assistant training at Trevecca University and University of Nebraska, Omaha.
- First, all applicants need to understand and articulate that becoming a PA is about providing genuine care for other people. There is no room for selfishness or ego.
- Secondly, for re-applicants, avoid recycling applications. We all want to know what the you have done to improve your chances over the prior year. In addition, I think it’s a sign of maturity to articulate how it felt to be denied admission the prior year.
- Last is to always keep moving towards their goal of becoming a PA. Take or retake a class, get more patient care experience, go on a mission trip, job shadow, anything to improve your chances.
Professor Jenny Kluznik is alumni of the Augsburg PA program and came back as faculty and our academic coordinator. She advises “candidates to spend quality time on developing their personal statement and other essays required on an application for PA school. The personal statement and essays are the pieces of an application where the individuality of an applicant shows through. Applicants should take time to write these and fully represent their talents, goals, and background experience. Take time to write, rewrite, get feedback, and proofread.”
We wish you the best of luck as you all pursue your PA education!
Update as of September 25, 2019: Rachel graduated with her Master’s of Science in Physician Assistant Studies from Augsburg University in August. She is relocating to Texas within the month to start practicing as an Emergency Medicine PA with the Dallas VA Medical Center.
Rachel Gratz, PA-S2, has a lot to celebrate and look forward to in 2019! She recently found out she is one of 19 students being awarded the 2018 Health Professional Scholarship Program (HPSP) from Veterans Affairs. Veterans Affairs gives out the scholarship with the hopes of increasing the supply of PAs within the VA but also for the nation. Across the country, over 800 students applied for education support while also making a commitment to serve for two years as a PA with the VA.
Everyone has their own story of pursuing a career as a PA. For Rachel, she has always been dedicated to doing things for others. From a young age, she was volunteering anywhere she could and even donating her allowance to sponsor a girl in Brazil. Her passion evolved over the years as she worked in nursing homes, hospice care, assisted living and mental health. “The accumulation of these experiences and my degree in Biology ultimately led me on the journey to the PA profession,” says Rachel.
As we near the summer semester, second year students in the Class of 2019 are preparing to start their Master’s Projects. This opportunity allows them a choice to pursue a topic of interest to them. They may direct their own research and develop a paper based on a specific research question.
Students may also elect to complete a course within Augsburg University’s Master of Arts Leadership, Masters in Business Administration or Masters in Music Therapy departments. Our PA students also have the chance to participate in a range of experiential learning courses within local and international communities. During the 2017 summer course, students could be seen in China, Nicaragua, local community clinics and at summer camps volunteering their time while learning about current healthcare issues. Continue reading “Master’s Projects”
The PA Program is excited to announce that our construction on new classrooms will begin soon! We are going to be holding regularly scheduled classes in Northwestern 230 for the week of February 5th. Starting February 12th, all scheduled classes will be held in Olson Campus Center. Please be sure to pay attention to signs so you know where to go!