Giving Back and Lifelong Learning: A Distinguished Fellow’s Perspective

Heather Asher Prince’s community service helps riders “roll with the wind”

September 13, 2019

Heather Prince headshot
Heather Asher Prince, CCRP, MPA, PA-C, DFAAPA

Heather Asher Prince, CCRP, MPA, PA-C, DFAAPA, works in clinical research and education at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was awarded the Distinguished Fellow distinction in 2018. Here, she shares her thoughts on community service and lifelong learning, two areas in which Distinguished Fellows demonstrate outstanding dedication.

[Apply now for the Distinguished Fellow program.]

How do you participate in community service?
Over the years, my community service has varied — to keep things interesting! Right now, I work with an organization called Ainsley’s Angels of America. The non-profit organization pairs those who are unable to run on their own, anyone with a disability and wheelchair bound, with Athlete Riders, able-bodied runners who push them in their wheelchairs so the riders can “roll with the wind.” I also volunteer with a local animal rescue sanctuary teaching self-care for rescuers.

As a PA, I donate my time to two state board committees, and I mentor current PA students, pre-PA students, and new research staff at the University of North Carolina (UNC).

What does giving back to your community mean to you?
One of my life goals is to be kind and “pay it forward.” I treat others the way I would like to be treated. So, I try to do as much to bring kindness and to help others for as long as I can in this life. Hopefully, someone who I help will be touched as well so they can then do something for someone else and spark a chain reaction.

[Distinguished Fellows Share Motivations for AAPA Recognition.]

What’s your commitment to lifelong learning?
I think that if you aren’t learning then you have stopped living! I always want to learn and experience new things. Of course, as a PA, CME courses are essential, but as a PA faculty member I am always reading my old textbooks and new reference books to stay on top of things. I always learn so much from personal experiences, so meeting new people and talking to them helps me learn so much. Traveling the world to see how other people and cultures live has really opened my mind as well.

What has been one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned during your career?
I have learned so many lessons. I think humility is one of the great life lessons. So, be honest with your patients, both when you mess up and when you don’t know the answers, as that is often a hard pill to swallow. We can’t save them all, but we can all rest our heads on the pillows at night if we know we did our best, even if the outcome isn’t what we desired. Every day, I strive to be better in at least some way than I was the day prior.

What advice do you have for anyone thinking of applying to be an AAPA Distinguished Fellow?
Think about your career from a big-picture perspective. Outside of just your patient care, what have you contributed? Have you done research to benefit patients in the future and published? Have you worked with your local or state PA organizations to improve legislation or educate your colleagues? What have you done to further your education? Think about all the ways things will change for you both personally and professionally if you get a DFAAPA.

AAPA’s Distinguished Fellow program was established in 2007 to recognize the exceptional contributions of PAs to the profession through professional achievement, leadership, professional interaction, learning and community service. Since then, just over 1,000 PAs – fewer than 2% of AAPA’s membership – have been awarded the distinction of being a Distinguished Fellow. Find out more about how you can become a Distinguished Fellow today.

Read More
Distinguished Fellows Program
AAPA Announces New Distinguished Fellows
Distinguished Fellows Share Motivations for AAPA Recognition

Heather Asher Prince, CCRP, MPA, PA-C, DFAAPA, works in clinical research and education at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in North Carolina. She can be reached at [email protected].