December 6, 2023
Lena Ward, PA-C, and Brandon Cherry, PA-C, Take Over Mics
March 8, 2021
By Kate Maloney
Lena Ward and Brandon Cherry, both newly minted PA-Cs, are already adding another entry on their resumes: podcast host. Ward and Cherry will begin hosting JAAPA’s podcast in early 2021, taking over from original hosts and podcast co-creators Adrian Banning, DHSc, MMS, PA-C, and Kristopher Maday, MS, PA-C, DFAAPA.
Original Hosts Leave Podcast in Capable Hands
Banning and Maday hosted the podcast together for four years. Both PA educators, they connected on social media and recognized the need for a JAAPA podcast to further connect the PA community with everything JAAPA has to offer. They pitched the podcast to JAAPA leadership, found great support, got it started, and fell into an enjoyable routine. “The product was polished and easy to listen to,” Maday said. “But there comes a time in any project where you feel like you have taken it as far as you can and there are more growth opportunities if you step aside.” Banning agreed: “We were ready to hand over the mics. Kris and I are both at different places in our career now. We both see the importance of shared leadership and in elevating fresh voices—especially voices that have been marginalized by the PA profession. So while it’s a little bittersweet to leave something as great as this behind, it’s exciting to think about what Lena and Brandon will do with it,” Banning said. “We’re excited for the next generation of hosts and excited to become listeners,” Maday added.
They sought replacements who would offer a fresh take both on the hosting duties and the JAAPA material covered during the episodes. Banning knew Ward and Cherry from Drexel’s PA Program and approached them with the opportunity. “Lena and Brandon were a natural fit. Hosting the podcast – in addition to work responsibilities – takes passion and the capacity to make time for something you feel strongly about. Lena and Brandon both demonstrated that to me when they were students and since. Lena is a phenomenal connector and communicator. She gets things done. Brandon has deep experiences in public health and underserved communities and he’s always had an easy way of recognizing that each issue has many sides. What more could you ask for in people who will translate the issues of the profession in audio format?” Ward and Cherry are both driven and dedicated, so it’s no surprise they said yes to an additional commitment just as they acclimate to their PA careers.
Lena Ward is from Salisbury, Maryland, and attended Drexel’s accelerated Bachelor of Science/Master of Health Science five-year program. She decided to become a PA due to a chance encounter with one of her former elementary school teachers. Ward was part of a vocational program in high school that hosted speakers from various health occupations. Who should come in one day but Ward’s fifth-grade teacher; she had made a drastic career shift and was now a PA. The teacher inspired Ward to become a PA herself.
Ward found lifelong friends during PA school. “PA school is a unique and humbling experience that forces you to lean on your classmates and show your vulnerabilities,” Ward said. “It’s rewarding when you have classmates who will help you through your challenges.” Ward had a job secured before COVID-19 surged and has been working through the pandemic. She is currently a hospitalist PA in Philadelphia, at Einstein Medical Center. She works 12-hour night shifts, where she manages patient census and new admissions.
In addition to her full-time job, Ward also leads a Drexel alumni group, PA Minority Alliance (PAMA). PAMA’s mission is to improve academic success and decrease attrition rates of minority students with the PA program. “I am very passionate about this,” Ward said. “Throughout my student years and now as a working PA, I have always been one of the few Black people in the room, which I have learned to adapt to. Unfortunately, there are not many Black PAs, and on rotations I still wouldn’t see attending physicians, resident physicians, or other PAs or medical students who looked like me.” Through PAMA, Ward hopes to empower students of color and provide representation for them. She knows, firsthand, how hard PA school can be, and wants to support Black students and students of color so they can successfully complete their programs and become healthcare providers. “Minority patients have better outcomes when their providers look like them,” Ward said. “We can’t accomplish that if we don’t support minority PA students.”
Brandon Cherry grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and attended Johns Hopkins University as an undergraduate. He had an innate interest in medicine, but was not aware of the breadth of medical professions until his senior year of high school. Through an internship program, he shadowed a multitude of medical professionals. With his newfound knowledge of the different options, he did his research and decided to become a PA.
He attended Drexel University’s PA Program, where he met Banning as a professor and Ward as a classmate. Like Ward, he enjoyed PA school, particularly the relationships he cultivated with his classmates and professors as well as the academic challenge. But he didn’t anticipate the challenge that faced him as he started his first job as a PA: COVID-19, which significantly reduced the number of patients at the clinic where he had been hired. After only two months, he was looking for another position. He now works as a hospitalist in Philadelphia, where his duties include admitting patients from the ED, assisting in rapid responses and stroke alerts on the floor, and some rounding. He’s navigating the pandemic as most PAs are: with professionalism and dedication to his patients.
The Future of JAAPA’s Podcast
Ward and Cherry are eager to get started with their hosting duties. “I’m committed to being a lifelong learner,” Cherry said. “I want to help other people learn as well. I know from my own practice that you sometimes can see the same types of morbidities on a daily basis, but it’s important to stay up to date on new information.” Ward agrees: “It’s important to take time to study the topics I’m seeing in practice and the JAAPA podcast is a fun and engaging way to do that.”
Cherry and Ward have no immediate plans to make major changes to the podcast’s format. “Kris and Adrian have done a great job,” Cherry said. “My goal is to be able to match their energy and ability to deliver the information quickly and concisely.” The new hosts do, however, have a few tweaks they’ll be looking to implement. “We want to have inclusive guests,” Ward shared, “and we want to interact with our listeners!”
Kate Maloney is AAPA’s senior manager of corporate communications. Contact her at [email protected].