AAPA 2022 Conference Highlights: AAPA Announces New Mental Health First Aid Partnership with Indianapolis Colts

AAPA and the Colts Kick the Stigma, Indiana University Takes First Place in Challenge Bowl Competition

Launching the New Brand

During Sunday’s Main Stage Event, AAPA President Jennifer M. Orozco, DMSc, PA-C, DFAAPA, offered PAs a preview of AAPA’s new brand campaign, PAs Go Beyond. PAs who visited AAPA’s Brand Booth, located in the Exhibit Hall, were able to learn more about the brand, receive PAs Go Beyond stickers, and take photos with brand swag to post on their social media channels. “I go beyond as a PA by first off advocating and listening to my patients. I take the extra time when needed and keep patients’ wishes and desires at the center of their care,” shared Audrey Smeenk, PA-C. Learn more about the new brand – which will officially launch on June 13 –  at PAsGoBeyond.com and join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #PAsGoBeyond!

AAPA’s Board of Directors posed with the PAs Go Beyond sculpture in the Convention Center lobby.


Nutrition and Obesity Symposium

In addition to mental and behavioral health and diabetes, nutrition and obesity are two of AAPA’s National Health Priorities. These intertwined topics were the focus of Monday’s Nutrition and Obesity Symposium, comprised of a series of CME sessions that covered facets of treating obesity and nutrition education. The “Mythbusters: Diet and Exercise” session addressed common myths about fad diets and exercise trends that promise patients quick weight-loss. Participants learned how to help patients identify which recommendations are backed by science and which should be avoided. Other sessions tackled obesity and stigma, anti-obesity medications, and nutritional deficiencies.


Focusing in on Mental Health

Two main events centered around mental and behavioral health took place on Monday: The day-long Symposium on Clinician and Clinical Student Well-Being within a Team Based Environment and the Main Stage Event, Kicking the Stigma in Your Community: A Panel Discussion with the Indianapolis Colts and Your PA Colleagues.

The symposium gathered thought leaders from a variety of medical organizations to address provider burnout. Morning sessions included a moderated panel discussion and a Q&A. In the afternoon, participants engaged in small-group discussions to pool skills, resources, and discuss deliverables to bring back to their own organizations. “Perceived wellness culture – for clinicians and employees — impacts how they feel and what they do,” said panel presenter Bernadette Mazurek Melnyk, PhD, APRN-CNP, EBP-C, FAANP, FAAN, from The Ohio State University College of Nursing Helene Fuld Trust National Institute for Evidence-based Practice in Nursing and Healthcare in the “Manifestations of Wellbeing and Burnout in Clinicians” morning session.

As the attendees left, they were asked to write one word to describe how they felt returning home to address wellbeing. Responses included words like, “energized,” “empowered,” and “seen.”


Announcing a Mental Health Partnership

AAPA teamed up with the Indianapolis Colts to discuss ways to increase mental health awareness and access to care. In a panel discussion, Steve Campbell, the team’s vice president of communications, and Kalen Jackson Colts vice chair and owner, shared lessons learned from their experience with the Colts’ Kicking the Stigma campaign. Sarah Scantamburlo, MSW, MS, PA-C, a PA Foundation Mental Health Outreach Fellow, and Elizabeth White MA, LMHC, LCAC, the Colts’ team clinician, shared their experiences as mental health clinicians who have direct patient interactions.

Jackson provided context for why the Colts decided to dedicate their resources and platform to dismantling the stigma of mental health. “We really pride ourselves in being the organization that always shows up.  When we started to look at the [mental health] statistics, it was devastating, especially in Indianapolis,” she said. Campbell echoed the Colts’ commitment to not only making mental health a priority for their organization, but financially supporting the work of existing Indiana organizations who help connect individuals to mental heath resources.

In this vein, AAPA President Jennifer Orozco, DMSc, PA-C, DFAAPA, and Jackson announced a new partnership between AAPA and the Indianapolis Colts to improve mental health in Indiana. Through this partnership, 12 Indiana-based PAs will receive evidence and skill-based Mental Health First Aid training from the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. The Indiana cohort of PAs receiving training will include faculty members from all eight Indiana-based PA programs. The PA Foundation will administer the partnership, which aims to train at least 2,000 people in Indiana. “We are honored to join your effort to fund and support community-based initiatives in Indiana to improve mental health while kicking the stigma surrounding it,” Orozco said.


Student Events: 2022 Challenge Bowl

Monday was a busy day for PA students attending conference. In an afternoon session for students, “The Power and Importance of Student Advocacy”, First Vice Speaker of AAPA’s House of Delegates and PA educator Leslie Clayton, MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA encouraged PA students to become aware of and involved with advocacy efforts on behalf of the profession. Students learned more about how to support AAPA’s advocacy through volunteering and left equipped with resources to participate on the state and national level.

On Monday evening, 66 teams competed in AAPA’s 31st National Medical Challenge Bowl, game show pitting students from PA programs across the country against one another in a test of medical knowledge. Students answered questions about physical diagnosis, microbiology, anatomy, OB/GYN, pulmonary, cardiology, primary care, emergency medicine, and surgery. In addition to the student teams on stage, fellow students showed their support for their team representatives by donning school apparel and cheering on their peers. Congratulations to Indiana University’s PA program, this year’s Challenge Bowl champions!

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