PA Foundation Announces First Cohort of Mental Health Outreach Fellows

Fellows to Conduct Local Trainings to Increase Mental Health Awareness and Reduce Stigma

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (March 15, 2018) – Today the PA (Physician Assistant) Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American Academy of PAs (AAPA), announced the 16 recipients of the inaugural Mental Health Outreach Fellowship. The Mental Health Outreach Fellowship taps into the established and growing community outreach program developed by the National Council for Behavioral Health – the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) program – which teaches lay people skills to respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorder. As MHFA instructors, the fellows will conduct outreach and training in their communities around the country.

The 2018 cohort will include:

  • Laura Allen, Colorado
  • Meoshe Beckworth, Tennessee
  • Sean Diesel, New Mexico
  • Christopher Dietrich, Alaska
  • Jennifer Forbes, Utah
  • Melissa Gentry, Iowa
  • James “Rick” Kilgore, Alabama
  • Melodie Kolmetz, New York
  • Hwal Lee, Virginia
  • Lloyd Merino, New Mexico
  • Madeleine Nguyen-Cao, Texas
  • Diana Noller, Texas
  • Dale Sanderson, Washington
  • Sarah Scantamburlo, Michigan
  • Rebecca Ulrich, South Carolina
  • Ian Ward, North Carolina

“Mental health is a critical, yet too often underfunded and understaffed component of health care.  This inaugural cohort of PA Mental Health Outreach Fellows has an incredible opportunity to change that,” said L. Gail Curtis, PA-C, MPAS, DFAAPA, president and chair of the AAPA Board of Directors. “We are proud of these PA fellows for taking the initiative to concretely and proactively impact change in their communities as it affects this growing national health care crisis. Their leadership in this opportunity is inspiring.”

Fellows will attend MHFA instructor training March 26-28 in Alexandria to become certified MHFA instructors. After their training and certification, fellows will conduct community outreach and training to a minimum of 100 people over the course of the following year. They will be tasked with creating business plans and forming community partnerships in order to fulfill their training requirement.

“The Mental Health First Aid curriculum offered by the National Council for Behavioral Health complements the clinical knowledge and skill of our PA fellows,” said Jim Cawley, MPH, PA-C, president of the PA Foundation Board of Trustees. “This fellowship allows the Foundation to provide PAs additional resources to actively support their communities on an issue they feel passionately about—increasing awareness of mental health issues and reducing stigma. We are thrilled to offer our support as they strive to make a meaningful impact on society.”

Approximately one in six adults in the U.S. — more than 44 million individuals — experience mental illness in a given year. Through the MHFA program, fellows will help prepare individuals in their community to recognize and respond to signs of early-stage mental illness and mental health crisis, offer and provide initial help, and guide people experiencing mental health issues toward appropriate professional support.

All fellows are PAs or PA students and current members of AAPA. Through this fellowship, which is possible with philanthropic support from AAPA and Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A., Inc., the PA Foundation aims to build a strong PA network of MHFA trainers across the country.


About the American Academy of PAs
AAPA is the national organization that advocates for all PAs and provides tools to improve PA practice and patient care. Founded in 1968, AAPA represents a profession of more than 123,000 PAs across all medical and surgical specialties in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. territories and the uniformed services. Visit to learn more.

About the PA Foundation
The PA Foundation is a national nonprofit organization affiliated with the American Academy of PAs and promotes better health and wellness by connecting the clinical expertise and compassion of PAs to community health care needs. The Foundation’s mission is to empower PAs to improve health through philanthropy and service.