AAPA Provides Update on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives to Date

Commission and Staff Task Force Further Organizational Progress

May 24, 2021

In June 2020, AAPA committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in healthcare while fighting racism and explicit and implicit bias. AAPA members have spent the past year listening, learning, and building strategies and initiatives to enhance diversity in the profession and to address health inequities among patients. The organization has worked to foster a staff culture committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Although the work done during the past year is just a start, here is an update on DEI efforts to date.

Establishing baselines
In order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the work that needed to be done, AAPA established baselines among AAPA members and AAPA staff. In June 2020, we conducted two listening sessions to hear from PAs of color about their experiences with racism and their recommendations for action. The listening sessions helped inform member and staff initiatives.

To establish baselines for staff knowledge and understanding of DEI, AAPA worked with consultants at The Silverene Group to execute an internal staff climate survey around DEI. This data informed staff DEI trainings conducted in September 2020 around language, unconscious bias, inclusive leadership, and cultural literacy. AAPA will implement required learning activities for staff this summer. AAPA also established a DEI Staff Task Force to continue to educate and inform staff and member initiatives around DEI.

Strategic direction
Last fall, AAPA’s Board of Directors established a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Commission made up of representatives from various constituent organizations as well as AAPA’s partner organizations: NCCPA, PAEA, and ARC-PA. Members of the Commission will serve two-year appointments to carry out their charges. Robert Wooten, MS, PA-C, DFAAPA, assistant professor, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Department of PA Studies, and past president of AAPA, serves as chair. AAPA also appointed Director of Employer Strategy Andrea Lowe, MBA, MHA, PA-C, as DEI Business Partner and staff advisor to the DEI Commission. Lowe also leads the DEI Staff Task Force. The DEI Staff Task Force supports the DEI Commission’s work.

“We appreciate the work of the DEI Commission to help PAs advance diversity, equity, and inclusion and health equity,” said AAPA President and Chair of the Board, Beth Smolko, DMSc, PA-C, DFAAPA. “As our policy states, ‘AAPA recognizes that racism, in its systemic, structural, institutional, and interpersonal forms, is an ongoing urgent threat to public health, the advancement of health equity, and excellence in the delivery of medical care.’ In order to achieve health equity, we need the demographics of the PA profession to reflect the patients they serve. We hope that the Commission’s efforts will move us further in that direction.”

AAPA’s 2021-2025 five-year strategic plan incorporates goals and tactics reflecting the organization’s commitment to diversity. DEI values are built into the foundation of each of the pillars.

DEI Resource Center
In order to provide educational resources for PAs and PA students, AAPA’s DEI Staff Task Force helped to establish a web page, the DEI Resource Center, that incorporates the latest information related to health equity, DEI policies, CME, articles, and other resources.

Pipeline programs
The PA Foundation established an additional scholarship opportunity for Black PA students, the Joyce Nichols Memorial Scholarship. The development of a leadership fellowship program is also underway, also under the management of the PA Foundation. As mentorship is key to ensuring that PAs and PA students of color have proper support throughout their careers, AAPA is working to provide a centralized mentoring platform with collaborating partners.

Educational initiatives
AAPA also committed to identifying learning opportunities for AAPA members and staff to advance understanding of DEI. Throughout the year, PAs can participate in a free DEI webinar series for CME credit. Current topics include the following and additional topics will be added in 2021:

Following the surge in violence toward the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, AAPA pledged support to the AAPI community and presented a discussion between six AAPI PAs via Instagram Live. And in recognition of AAPI Heritage Month, we collaborated with eight AAPI PAs and PA students to share their stories in a News Central feature article.

One of the featured Main Stage events at AAPA 2021, PAs Are the Catalyst of Change To Close the Health Equity Gap, was a live panel discussion to broaden views of health inequities and recognize the privilege that clinicians have to enact change while supporting colleagues, patients, and communities. In addition to the live panel discussion, 27 CME sessions rooted in DEI topics were offered to AAPA 2021 attendees.

The DEI Commission and DEI Staff Task Force will continue their work to enhance diversity in the PA profession, address health inequities among patients, and foster a staff culture committed to DEI.

For more information, contact AAPA’s DEI Business Partner, Andrea Lowe, MBA, MHA, PA-C, at [email protected]

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